With the streets covered in tinsel and carols blaring out of every shopping centre speaker, it’s easy to think Christmas is the only big festivity being held around this time of the year. But for many Australians, Christmas is just one of many events they celebrate in December.
Below are six holidays celebrated by people of different cultures in Australia and around the world, all of which coincide with the Christmas season.
Date: December 8, 2016
Bodhi Day is an important day in the Buddhist calendar. It commemorates the day Buddha attained nirvana or enlightenment. The exact date of Bodhi Day changes each year, but according to the Asian Lunar Calendar, it falls on the 8th day of 12th month.
Some choose to celebrate the day by performing acts of kindness towards others, partaking in meditation, or chanting traditional Buddhist verses.
Date: December 22, 2016
Called Shab-e-Yalda in Farsi, it is a Persian festival that celebrates the longest night in the year or winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Individuals celebrate Yalda by spending time with family, reading poetry by philosopher Hafaz, and eating red coloured fruits like pomegranates and watermelons which signify the crimson hues of the early morning dawn.
Date: December 12, 2016
Karthikai Deepam is a Tamil and Malayali Hindu festival, which occurs on the full moon day of the Karthikai month, the eighth month of the Tamil Hindu calendar. The day celebrates the birth of the Lord Murugan, the second son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, and Ganesha’s little brother.
The story goes that Murugan was a born as six separate babies, each raised by the six stars of the Krithika constellation. On Karthikai Deepam, Goddess Parvathi fused all six babies together to form one child, Murugan. As a result, Murugan is identified by his six faces and 12 hands.
Dates: December 24, 2016 to January 1, 2017
The Jewish festival of Hannukah commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. After the Holy Temple was desecrated by the Syrian-Greeks with pig sacrifices and idol worship (both of which are prohibited in Judaism), the Maccabees (Jewish rebels who fought against Syrian-Greek oppression) were determined to purify their temple.
To do this, they hoped to light the temple Menorah (a traditional Jewish candelabrum) with kosher olive oil for eight days. However, only one day’s worth of oil was left in stock. They lit the menorah anyway and miraculously the oil burned for eight whole days and nights, long enough for a new kosher oil to be prepared. This is the miracle that Hanukkah celebrates.
Dates: December 26, 2016 to January 1, 2017
Kwanzaa is an African-American tradition that celebrates African heritage. It is meant to help African-Americans who 'descended from slaves' to reconnect with their lost African heritage. Kwanzaa is a secular festival, created by professor and activist Maulana Karenga in 1966 during the time of the Black Nationalist movement. In Swahili, Kwanzaa means ‘first fruits of the harvest’. This festival is celebrated by African-Americans all over the world through gift-giving acts, and a big feast with family and friends.
Date: December 21, 2016
Donghzi is the Chinese winter solstice festival. It’s a festival that promotes harmony and positivity. Families celebrate the day by getting together and making tangyuan – glutinous sticky rice balls. These balls symbolise reunion and togetherness.