Winter Holidays: Holiday celebrations in the U.S.


Graphic by Shraddha Sriram

As winter approaches, many holidays are around the corner. Each culture and religion has its own holiday and way of celebration. While some holidays are very well-known,  there are many more that the majority of people are unaware of. The culturally diverse community that we live in celebrates a wide variety of holidays that take place around this time, such as Christmas, Hanukkah and Chinese New Year.

Christmas, a widely celebrated holiday dedicated to the birth of Jesus Christ, is celebrated on Dec. 25. The traditional way of celebrating it is to gather with family and friends, decorate Christmas trees, exchange gifts, attend church and share a hearty meal. On St. Nicholas Day, people leave gifts in shoes or stockings and write letters to St. Nicholas. Some people leave their shoes out in the entryway or by the fireplace hoping that St. Nicholas may leave them a small present. 

Hanukkah is a holiday that is celebrated in many countries. Hanukkah honors the miracle that occurred in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. After the Jews’ victory over the Greeks, there was only enough oil to burn for one day in the Temple. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days. Thus, Hanukkah goes on for eight days. Each day everyone gathers up with friends and family, and lights candles in the Menorah to commemorate the miracle. People also spin dreidels as a social game that was used as an excuse for Jews to gather to study the Torah – the Jewish Bible, when it was forbidden by the greeks’ authorities. Another tradition is to eat fried food like Sufganiyot, which are jelly donuts, to commemorate the miracle associated with the temple’s oil. 

Another holiday celebrated around this time  is Chinese New Year. It is a 15-day festival celebrated in China and in many Chinese communities around the world. The holiday is about celebrating the arrival of the new year in the traditional Chinese calendar. The first day of Chinese New Year begins on the new moon that appears between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, and is also known as the Lunar New Year. Each year is represented by an animal from the Chinese zodiac signs that follow a 12-year cycle. 2023’s animal is Rabbit, which is known to be the luckiest out of all the twelve animals; it symbolizes mercy, elegance and beauty. The celebration includes people having feasts, and bursting firecrackers and fireworks. People also wear red clothes and put up red decorations, a color representing good fortune and joy. The last event in the holiday is called the Lantern Festival where people hang glowing lanterns in temples or carry them during a nighttime parade. In many areas, a dragon dance which involves a long, colorful dragon being carried through festivals by numerous dancers is the highlight of the night. The dragon, the Chinese symbol of good fortune, is celebrated as a way to wish good fortune to the upcoming year.

These are some of the most popular winter holidays that are celebrated around the world.