The Holiday season is firmly upon us, and alongside electric eel-controlled lights and Christmas trees made from recycled bottles, people around the world are getting ready to celebrate different traditions and religious holidays.
Christmas, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day… Just a few examples of different religious holidays that people celebrate across the world. Different cultures have their own ways of doing things too, take Iceland and their Yule Cat and Yule Lads. We at the Treasury Today Group wanted to take a look at just a few holiday traditions from around the globe and across different religions.
The Yule Cat is said to be a giant cat that roams the countryside at Christmastime. Originally, farmers would incentivise their workers by telling them that if they worked hard then they would receive a new set of clothes and that if they didn’t, they would be eaten by the Yule Cat – either because they hadn’t worked hard or because they didn’t have new clothes, it seems. It has since become tradition for everyone in Iceland to get new clothing for Yule to stave off becoming dinner for the giant feline.
The Yule Lads are a group of 13 mischievous boys who steal from or harass the people of Iceland. Their names reflect how they each behave (eg Bjúgnakrækir – Sausage-Swiper – who is said to hide in the rafters and steal sausages that are being smoked). One by one they come to town during the last 13 nights before Yule and leave small gifts in the shoes of children that have behaved, or a potato for those that haven’t.
Christmas isn’t really celebrated in Japan – at least not in the way you would expect. The traditional Japanese Christmas meal is a bucket of KFC fried chicken. Originally released as a tourist feature in the 1970s for visiting foreigners to have something that resembled a traditional holiday dinner, the locals embraced it as well, and more than 40 years after it began, it continues as a staple of Japanese culture – so popular that KFC suggests customers place their orders two months in advance.
Australia celebrates Christmas, but unlike the northern hemisphere, they don’t hunker down with a roaring fire and plenty of warm clothing. Falling in the middle of the Australian summer, Christmas is celebrated at the beach, with people having picnics, barbeques, going swimming and playing volleyball.
Hanukkah is celebrated by those of Jewish faith all over the world. The Festival of Lights is an eight-day festival celebrating hope and freedom, typically falling in December. The most well-known symbol is the Menorah – an eight-branched candelabrum with a ninth lamp set apart – with one candle lit by the ninth candle each night for the full eight days.
Bodhi Day is the Buddhist holiday commemorating the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, experienced enlightenment – bodhi in Sanskrit and Pali. Some choose to spend the day practicing additional meditation, study of the Dharma, chanting of Buddhist texts, performing kind acts towards one another, or having a traditional meal of tea and cake.
Pancha Ganapti, sometimes thought of as Hindu Christmas, is the festival to worship Lord Ganesha – the elephant-headed Lord of culture and new beginnings. Celebrated between 21st-25th December, each day one of the five faces of Lord Panchamukha Ganapti, a form of Ganesha, is worshipped. During the festival, family members work to mend past mistakes and bring joy and harmony into the five realms of their life, a wider circle each day: family, friends, associates, culture and religion. They give gifts each day that are all opened on the final day.
These are just a few of the winter holiday festivals across the globe, and as each person celebrates their own traditions, it’s nice to remember the rich cultures of others.
Happy Holidays from the Treasury Today Group!