From dancing to lanterns: Celebrating the holidays around the world

December 22, 2016

How are the holidays spent around the world? This time of year represents a time of celebration for many people – from Canada to South Sudan, it’s a time to be with friends and family in joy and peace.

Check out some of traditions that take place in some of the countries we work in during the holidays:

SOUTH SUDAN: A day of peace and unity

In many South Sudanese communities, December 25th is considered to be a time of holy celebration but also as a day of peace, unity and joy. Family gatherings, exchanging gifts and sharing meals are part of the celebration.

South Sudan is comprised of over 67 tribes that are known for celebrating the holidays in a unique way based on their different cultural way of life.

“We love celebrating,” says one of the cultural chiefs from one of the ethnic Acholi tribes in Eastern Equatoria state. “It brings joy, peace and unity among our people - it’s an amazing day. We come to together and practice our traditional dance, enjoy our traditional food and clothing.”

Among the Acholi tribe from Eastern Equatorial state, December 25th is the day that young people sit together and learn from their elders. They talk about their way of life, marriage, clothing, traditional kings, food and dance.

THE PHILIPPINES: Lanterns everywhere

Filipinos are fond of colours and everything bright during the holidays, and of course, spending time with loved ones. One special tradition is the preparation of various “parols” – the Filipino version of holiday lanterns.The lanterns are a traditional symbol of the festive spirit in the Philippines. These parols hang in front of every home or any other visible spot. Even young students are sometimes required to make their own parols as a school project.

SERBIA: The sparks may bring prosperity

Early in the morning, people in parts of Serbia – mainly men – head into to the forest to cut down an oak tree with dry leafs. They also buy a small bouquet of oak twigs and straw and young green wheat in pots. The wheat and oak represent the tree that the shepherds brought in the bilblical stories. It is placed on the table, which is decorated with candies and nuts, while the wheat under the table symbolizes the crib where Jesus was born.

Food and family is also a big part of the holiday season in Serbia. In the evening most people go to church and each family brings the oak twigs from last year which they kept in the house. In front of the church is a big fire where everybody gathers around and burns their old oak twigs, drinking wine and saying: “the sparks may bring many coins and prosperity”.

KENYA: Enjoying stories from the old days

Are you sensing a pattern? In Kenya, people also eat and spend time with loved ones.

The traditional Kenyan holiday experience usually involves family who live in urban areas travelling to spend time with aging parents and visit with those in the villages. Families gather for a communal cooking experience with the women taking the lead while the men prepare a goat or chicken to mark the celebration. Celebrations can be a one-day affair or stretch up to a week. Parents are also keen to spend time with their grandchildren who enjoy the stories from the old days.

Whatever the holidays have in-store for you, may you be surrounded by loved ones and may the new year bring peace and joy to all.