Winter Holidays Around the World

Tessa Fabrizio ’25
EE Staff Writer

Sunrise between the stones at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice

Czech Republic, St. Nicholas Day– During the month of December, the Czechs have a very different idea of the Santa we know and love. But, the origin of St. Nicholas was that of a Greek Bishop, who protected children. St. Nicholas Day is still regularly celebrated across Europe on December 6th, though the traditions vary.  In the Czech Republic, St. Nick dresses like a bishop and is attended by both an angel and a devil. Based on St. Nick’s opinion of a child’s behavior, the kid either gets a gift from the angel or gets terrorized by the devil. 

Greece, Christmas Boats-Christmas trees are common in Greece, but you’ll also find boats wrapped in strands of lights, whether in the water or in the main plaza. There are two reasons for boat-decorating: The first is the country’s ancient marine culture. The second is that St. Nicholas’ association with sailors, for he is the patron saint of them. These boats beautifully represent the country’s past as well as their joyfulness for the holidays.

Iceland, The Thirteen Yule Lads- The Thirteen Yule Lads similar to Snow White and her dwarfs, everyone has a name and a different personality associated with that name. The thirteen nights before Christmas, they give gifts to children. Unless children are bad, if they are, they get rotten foods, or even worse the Yule Lads’ mother Gryla. The group is said to be a mischievous bunch and is known for stealing and eating food.

Philippines, Simbang Gabi- Simbang Gabi is the nine days of predawn Catholic masses that end with the final mass on Christmas Eve. Though it sounds like there is no joy waking up before the sun for nine days consecutively, on your way to mass there are festive bands that fill the street, lit lanterns that light the way, and street vendors that offer holiday treats.

Mexico, Las Posadas-Las Posadas are possessions that occur every night, for the nine nights before Christmas eve. The posadas are like a reenactment of Jesus and Mary seeking shelter. They typically include lots of singing and children dressing up as angels. Eventually, each posada ends the night at someone’s pre-chosen home, after originally being turned away, they’re invited in with food and drinks.

U.K, Winter Solstice– The ancient tradition of the Winter Solstice, or observing the Winter Solstice came about as early as the Stone Age. The event occurs a few days before Christmas and is celebrated in different forms everywhere.  England’s Stonehenge is thought to be one of the best places to see the sunrise. Visitors can visit Stonehenge, and buy tickets to experience the sunrise

Japan, Toji–  Toji is what the Japanese call their winter solstice. Their tradition involves going up on Mt. Fuji and lighting a fire as well as taking baths that are infused with citrus fruits. But, the best way to welcome the winter solstice is by attending an onsen which is a natural hot spring that’s filled with yuzu, a citrus plant.

Italy, Venice carnival- The Carnival of Venice, or in Italian, Carnevale di Venezia, is an annual festival held in Venice, Italy. The festival is world-famous for its ornate masks and costumes as well as for its prestigious balls. This year,  the dates are the 30 and 31 of January. Normally, it begins around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and stops on Shrove Tuesday. Not only does it creatively represent fashion, but Italian culture as a whole.

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