Chilly weather, snowflakes, fireplaces, family time. Gift-giving, holiday cheer, winter games, snuggling in blankets. Many people have warm and cozy associations with winter as we combat the cold weather, spend time with loved ones, and prepare to celebrate our time-honored traditions.
As families around the world welcome the winter holiday season, we can make memories with cultural customs old and new.
This winter, make new memories with your family by celebrating a tradition from your heritage or another part of the world! Below, you will find several winter practices from across the globe that will keep your family cozy, comfy, and happy. Comment below to share your family’s favorite winter tradition!
Celebrated in China during the Winter Solstice, Dongzhi means “Winter’s arrival.” The Winter Solstice not only marks the first day of winter but is also the day when the Earth’s poles are tilted the furthest away from the sun. The tilt causes Earth to be exposed to sunlight for the least amount of time all year, creating the effect that this is the longest “night” of the year.
Not to be deterred by the darkness, the celebration of Dongzhi involves families gathering together for a feast! Dumplings, rice wine, roasted meat, and various soups are commonly enjoyed during this meal. Celebrants may place food on the alters built to honor their ancestors.
A song that is sung on this day is called, “Count the Nines,” which recognizes how the winter will once again transform into a sunny spring.
Calling all book lovers! If enjoying literature is a favorite pastime of yours, this Icelandic tradition might be added to your annual traditions. Each year, on Christmas Eve, Icelanders who practice Jolabokaflod give the gift of a book to a family member or friend. Then, the gift recipients enjoy reading the book on Christmas Eve, practicing patience and enjoyment of the present as they anticipate the Christmas holiday on the following day. It is no wonder that Jolabokaflod translates to “the Christmas book flood!”
During this holiday season, consider adding a book to your list to pass to a beloved family member or friend. Then grab a warm beverage and cozy blanket, and enjoy a tale during the final countdown to a festive holiday!
Cultures all over the world engage in special customs on the Winter Solstice. In Iran, Yalda Night is celebrated on the longest night of the year. Connected to the agricultural calendar, Yalda burns fires on the final day of autumn, keeping the light ablaze through the night.
The fires signify the triumph over the darkness. During Yalda Night, families gather together, feasting, sharing stories, singing songs, and reading poetry. Fruits such as watermelon and persimmons are especially popular during this celebration.
Imagine how happy and cozy your family will feel gathering around a fire, reading stories to one another, enjoying autumnal fruits, and staying warm. What a special way to connect and come together as you get through the year’s longest night and into the sunlight of the next day.
Noche de las Rabanos
Night of the Radishes is an annual tradition celebrated primarily in Oaxaca, Mexico. Radishes grow in abundance in many parts of Mexico. The way they are used annually as Christmas draws near is a unique and creative way to do so!
Since 1897, Oaxaca has encouraged its citizens to create carvings out of radishes! Originally the carved radishes embellished the local holiday market. Over the years, the tradition has evolved into a whole festival centered around carved radishes.
There is even a radish-carving contest! Patrons can tour the festival to see the radishes, commonly carved into Biblical scenes, such as the Nativity, or symbols and characters from Mexican folklore.
While staying warm indoors, safely try your hand at radish carving! Allow your family to select a character or scene from a story or film and bring it to life using a common root vegetable. You can even work together to carve pieces that create a larger scene!
One of the coziest and most delicious winter traditions is called Fika, which translates to “a coffee and a cake break.” During the cold winter, Sweden takes the time to commune with family and friends over a warm beverage and tasty pastry.
While the menu often involves coffee and cake, one can also enjoy another warm drink such as tea, cocoa, cider, or other delectable treat for preference. The most important part of Fika is not the tasty treats but the time one takes to connect with others.
Fika might be one of the easiest ways to connect with friends and family this winter. Simply brew your favorite warm drink, have a tasty treat on hand, and gather around your kitchen table to spend time with someone you love!
Winter Around the World
Whatever winter traditions you and your family enjoy, there’s always a way to add a fun, new custom to liven up your holiday season. Whether you are creatively carving or toasting to being together, these cultural traditions have one thing in common – connecting with others. No matter how you spend your winter holiday season, here’s to well-being for your community!
Q: When is the Winter Solstice this year?
A: In 2023, the Winter Solstice will be on Thursday, December 21st.
Q: Is the Winter Solstice acknowledged in additional countries other than the ones mentioned in the article?
A: Yes! The Hopi tribe in Arizona, U.S., for example, celebrates Soyal on the Winter Solstice, while Scandinavian countries honor St. Lucia with a festival. Winter Solstice celebrations are found in many cultures across the globe!
Q: Are tourists allowed to attend the Noche de las Rabanos festival?
A: Yes! Oaxaca welcomes tourists from all over the world every year to celebrate Noche de las Rabanos.