World December Holidays

Holidays are celebrated distinctly in every country and learning about them gives you a better understanding of the culture from which they came.

Las Posadas is celebrated in Mexico from December 16th-24th and the festivities are held every evening. The festival is called Las Posadas, which means the inns or shelter, because of Mary’s difficult journey to find a place to stay on her journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It is a religious holiday that lasts for nine days, which represents the nine months that Jesus was carried by Maria (Mary) and can also represent the nine day journey to Bethlehem. Individuals are selected to play the roles of Mary and Joseph and they walk down the streets in a procession to go to a different home each night. Joseph stays outside the inn and they all sing a song about the innkeeper saying there isn’t any room for them to stay, but ultimately lets Joseph and the others inside. After everyone goes inside, they read a passage from the bible or say a prayer before the celebration begins. Often tamales are served and piñatas and candy are provided for the children. Sometimes the piñata is in the shape of a Christmas star that is put out near or at the end of the night.

The winter solstice festival in China, and most of Eastern and Southeastern Asia, can be celebrated between sometime between December 21st and the 23rd depending on the year. This celebration has a special meaning for the Chinese calendar since it is divided into 24 equal parts corresponding to the 15 degree change on the celestial longitude. The festival begins when the sun reaches the celestial longitude of 270 degrees and ends when it reaches 285 degrees. During this time families get together and eat “tangyuan”, which is a sweet soup with rice balls that are sometimes brightly colored. Each member of the family gets one big ball and several small balls in their soup and this symbolizes reunion. In some parts of northern China they eat dumplings instead of “tangyuan” during the solstice. In China, they believe that as the days grow longer, each day after the winter solstice, the positive energy will increase. Many people visit their loved ones who have passed away, exchange gifts and wear new clothes.

The Akwasiadae festival in Kumasi, also known as Adae Kese, is held every six weeks on a Sunday and the last one of the Gregorian calendar year is held on December 23rd. It is a celebration of past leaders, heroes and Ashanti kings. The festival was first celebrated when the Ashanti region gained statehood and independence from the Denkyiras. The celebration is divided into two parts: the observance and the party. The first part of the festival takes place in the king’s palace and includes only members of the royal family. Here they perform many rituals to purify the land take away the evil. The king also goes through purification and is completed through ceremonial meals and drinks that represent their ancestors while they pray for protection and guidance. This festival is meant to highlight the union that the people have and show that their unity is what makes them strong. The second part of the festival is an ornate ceremony that takes place in the Kumasi town square. People wear colorful clothing as they parade through the town and the king wears the most ornate golden ornaments. The drumming, dancing and gun firing is meant to keep the evil spirits away. The overall purpose of the festival is to make their people stronger by reminding them of what their ancestors have done. The celebration also gives the king a chance to speak to his people and to advise and unite them.

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