Winter Holidays Celebrated in America


Anila Ray

Christmas Tree in San Francisco (2019)

Anila Ray, Journalist/ Editor

Christmas is a very widely celebrated holiday in America. Originally, Christmas was to celebrate Jesus Christ being born, but now it is a national holiday for everyone. For some, Christmas has a religious significance, and for others, it’s just a time to come together with family and friends and to have fun. Many people celebrate Christmas by decorating their houses in lights, decorating Christmas trees, and giving and receiving gifts. Families get together and do winter activities together, like baking cookies or decorating gingerbread houses. Another popular Christmas tradition for children is writing letters to Santa Clause. Santa Claus is often portrayed as a happy, elderly man with a fluffy white beard and a red suit and hat. According to the stories, he travels across the world on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to the children who’ve been good all year. One of the most common beliefs of his methods of travel is by riding a flying sleigh pulled by reindeer. In Hawaii, many people believe that he comes by boat, and in Australia, it is said he comes by water skis.

Christmas Decorating (Anila Ray)


Hanukkah Menorah ( )

Another holiday celebrated in America is Hanukkah. The name Hanukkah came from the Hebrew word that means dedication. The holiday was created to remember Judah Maccabee’s victory over Antiochus, who tried to suppress the Jewish religion. One of the most iconic symbols of Hanukkah is the Hanukkah Menorah, or the Hanukkiah. There are eight days of Hanukkah and eight candles on the Hanukkiah, plus an extra one to help light them, one lit every night. There are eight candles and eight nights to honor the story where Maccabee found enough oil for light for only a night, but it burned for eight days. The Hanukkah miracle is also remembered by eating fried foods like potato pancakes, latkes, and other foods. Other traditions include giving gifts and playing games with a spinning top that are called dreidels.


Kwanzaa (

Kwanzaa is an American holiday created to celebrate African culture. In Swahili, Kwanzaa means “First Fruit.” This holiday lasts for seven days, from December 26th to January 1st. Kwanzaa is celebrated in many different ways by different families. However, celebrations often include music, dancing, storytelling, and a traditional African meal called kamaru. Like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa also has a tradition that involves lighting candles. The candle holder, which holds seven candles, is called a kinara. On a kinara, there are three green candles, three red, and one black. Each candle stands for a different African virtue. The black, center candle represents unity. The red candle represents self determination, or defining yourself, cooperative economics, or working together in business, and creativity. The green candles represent collective work, or working together, and responsibility, purpose, and faith. 


Taiwan Lantern Festival ( )

One of the most important Asian festivals is Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year. The Lunar Calendar isn’t the same as the Western Calendar, so there is no set date for Lunar New Years, although it always falls sometime in January or February. Lunar New Year celebrations last for about two weeks. Often, celebrations involve parades, decorations, and getting together with families. The decorations are usually in red and gold. These colors symbolize prosperity, health, and luck. During Lunar New Year, lanterns are also a big part of the decorations. In Taiwan, they throw some of the biggest. People gather in the streets to float their lanterns and light up the night sky. To celebrate Lunar New Year, fireworks are often launched. Another tradition is to give friends and family red envelopes. Often, the red envelopes have money inside. The money isn’t the main focus of the practice, though. The red on the envelopes are. The origins of the practice, legends say, come from the demon, Sui. Sui would terrorize children at night, and to keep their child awake and safe, two parents gave their kid eight coins. The coins were actually immortals in disguise, and when the child fell asleep they scared off the demon. Food is also an important way of celebrating. Many of the Lunar New Year foods have a special symbolism. Dumplings symbolize wealth, sweet rice balls symbolize family, and long noodles represent a long life.


Winter Solstice marks the start of winter and the longest night of the year. Although some people don’t consider the Winter Solstice as a holiday, many cultures celebrate it. Some Native American tribes, like the Zuni and the Hopi, use the Winter Solstice as a night to celebrate the sun returning after the longest night of the year. These celebrations, often called Soyal, last for around sixteen days. Celebrations often include cultural dances, prayers, stories, and songs. People often dress up in costumes for the festivals. Families get together for feasts and gift exchanges. Many of the Soyal practices are performed to welcome helpful spirits called kachinas. People who live in Iran, Afghanistan, and a few other countries also celebrate the Winter Solstice. In their culture, Winter Solstice is called Yalda Night. In the past, Yalda Night was a time to celebrate Mithra, the god of light. It also marks the end of the harvest season. Some traditions to celebrate Yalda night include staying up late with family, reading traditional literature, like poems and myths, praying for luck, and eating. Some foods like watermelons and pomegranates hold significance. Watermelon, a summer fruit, is eaten because some people believe that eating fruits from summer will prevent getting sick during winter. Pomegranates signify life.


Ball Drop in Times Square ( )

Finally, one of the most important American holidays is New Year. On New Year’s Eve, December 31st, family and friends get together. Some traditions include eating twelve grapes, for good luck, and staying up until midnight, the beginning of the first day of the new year, January 1st. In New York, they broadcast the ball dropping. The ball dropping is a big celebration where people gather in Times Square, or in front of their television, to watch a big disco-like ball descend during the countdown of the last minute of the year. Once January 1st starts, the ball disappears and the new year has officially begun. These are only a few winter celebrations, and there are many more throughout the world.