Beyond Decking the Halls: 4 International Winter Holidays to Make Your Own

Beyond Decking the Halls: 4 International Winter Holidays to Make Your Own
Perhaps you missed it, but come October 15 (give or take) the winter holidays were upon us. The most prominent among them is Christmas, but it certainly isn’t the only thing celebrated this time of year. There’s Hanukkah, Kwanza, Boxing Day, and a whole slew of religious and secular festivities under way all over the world. There are probably a thousand reasons for this season, but here are four celebrations known in the international community that you should consider making your own.

Saturnalia: December 17, 2014

This Roman-born holiday of the deity Saturn was originally marked as a time to reflect upon the human condition during the lost Golden Age, a time when “humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of social egalitarianism (source).” In Ancient Rome the celebration began with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, a public banquet followed by private gift-giving, and on-going parties. The atmosphere was carnival-like; traditional social norms were flipped on their ends. Some sources say on this day gambling was allowed, and slaves were served by their masters.
Adopt the tradition…
...of a masquerade for good will. Who doesn’t love a masquerade ball? Throw together a winter carnival complete with games and elaborate masks. Incorporate a way to do something nice for others. Have guests pay admission in the form of a canned good for a food bank, put on a show at a nursing home or hospital, take up a collection to donate to a neighborhood park.

Winter Solstice: December 21, 2014

People all over the world participate in festivals and celebrations to mark the Winter Solstice, the one day of the year with the fewest daylight hours. At Plum Deluxe, however, we choose to celebrate it as the longest night of the year. One tradition of the solstice is the lighting of bonfires and candles to encourage the sun’s return. It must work because the very next day, the sun begins to reclaim its portion of the 24 hour period until we enter the seasons of long days and short nights.
Adopt the tradition…
…of hosting a Winter Solstice bonfire party. Enjoy fireside staples such as stories and songs, hot beverages, and s’mores, alongside a celebration of the pagan belief that Winter Solstice is a time to rest and reflect. Think of the prolonged darkness as a blank page onto which you can write your hopes and plans for the coming year. Have guests write their intentions on scraps of paper and throw them into the fire to encourage them to come to fruition, to come into the light.

In a Pickle: December 25, 2014

In some regions of Germany, an unusual tradition is observed called the Christmas pickle. The last ornament put on the tree is a well-hidden glass pickle. On Christmas morning, the first child who finds the pickle ornament receives an extra present.
Adopt the tradition…
…of the Christmas Pickle. This silly rite doesn’t need much tweaking; it can fit into almost any festivity! If Christmas tress aren’t a feature in your holiday celebrations, hide the pickle in whatever spot tickles your fancy. Up the fun by not making the game exclusive to children. After all, if an adult in your life can’t find joy in a good pickle hunt, do you really need them?

Vasilovden: January 1, 2015

In Bulgaria, several pagan rituals related to the Winter Solstice survive as a way to celebrate the new year, or Vasilovden. The most popular tradition still observed is the Sourvakane, in which children prepare and decorate a branch from a cornel tree, known as a sourvachka. With this they go from home to home tapping the older generation on the back, reciting wishes for health and wealth in the coming year.
Adopt the tradition…
…of spreading well wishes to your loved ones. You can forgo decorating a branch (although I cannot imagine why you would), and concentrate on spreading cheer to your near and dear. Host a coffee klatch and catch up on the past year with friends while you each fill decorative jars with inspirational quotes, good memories, and good fortunes for the year to come. Later, or as part of the party, package and drop your jars of cheer at the post office for (very special) delivery to friends and family.
There is a lot, A LOT, going on this time of year, so don’t forget to celebrate yourself and the things most important to you in a way you think is best. That is the secret to a truly happy holiday.
Photo Credits: Artisan Maskers, Josh Levinger, Oka Tai-Lee, and beaucoup.

Janice Bear

Janice Bear is still a girl despite her 30-something years. She laughs too loud, talks too much, and is certain her hair has a mind of its own. While unsure of what she wants to be when she grows up, she's positive the search will be a 5-star dramedy. Catch her when you can at Never a Plain Jane.
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