As we count down to Christmas here in London, take a trip around the world with us! Explore these quirky and colourful celebrations you may have never heard of…
Bolivia – Alasitas
This month long celebration starting on the 24th January every year honours the Aymara god of abundance, Ekeko. During the celebration, Bolivians purchase miniature items representing their desires, to offer up to the god. These may represent anything from education to wealth and houses . It is also common to purchase objects for others as gifts, in the belief that Ekeko will grant real-life manifestations of the symbols to the gift’s recipient.
Photo by Senorhorst Jahnsen
Iceland – Thorrablot
This ancient sacrificial festival celebrates mid-winter and takes place between January and February. It is believed to have originated to honour the Norse god Thor – and was rejuvenated in the nineteenth-century. Thorrablot is first and foremost a traditional Viking feast incomplete without fermented shark, blood sausage and Brennivin (a very strong schnapps).
Photo by The blanz via Wikimedia Commons
Japan – Hinamatsuri
On Hinmatsuri (“Doll Day”), Japan celebrates its daughters! On this day, 3rd March, the family seeks to bring happiness and good health to young girls. Traditionally hina dolls were set adrift down the river, as people believed they would take bad spirits with them. The current practice of displaying the dolls at home started a few centuries ago. The dolls are often displayed with rice wine, peach blossom and “hishi mochi” - a three-tiered cake.
![web_960x540_03_Hinamatsuri.jpg](/uploads/web_960x540_03_Hinamatsuri.jpg) Photo by Daderot via WIkimedia Commons
Iran – Nowruz
Celebrated on the spring equinox, Nowruz marks the start of the Persian Calendar. For millennia, this has been a time of new beginnings. Leading up to the day, households undertake an intense bout of spring-cleaning and buy new clothes. Rituals are also performed, family members are visited and the haft-seen is created, an altar of seven symbolic objects. Regional variations exist in the many neighbouring countries, which also celebrate Nowruz.
Photo by آرمین via Wikimedia Commons
Hawaii – Kamehameha Day
June brings a rather different festival to Hawaii – Kamehameha Day (11th). First established in 1871, this is a celebration of the first monarch to unite Hawaii as one kingdom: Kamehameha the Great. On this day, the islands celebrate traditional Hawaiian culture including arts and crafts, food, and dance. There are grand floral parades through Honolulu as well as horse riding competitions and draping ceremonies where traditional flower garlands are hung on statues of King Kamehameha.
Photo by Anthony Quintano
Egypt – Leylet en Nuktah
In Ancient Times, Egyptians worshipped the Nile and made sacrifices in the hope of agricultural plenty. Nowadays, the festival is no longer rooted in the same spiritual beliefs. Nevertheless, many families come together to camp and have picnics around the Nile on 17th June. Traditionally, women also leave balls of dough on their doorsteps at sunset the day before. Each ball of dough represents a person in the house and the cracks represent their fate!
Photo by Ninaras via Wikimedia Commons
Nepal – Teej festival
Women in Nepal and parts of India celebrate this series of three festivals during the monsoon season. On this day, Hindu women dress in red (the colour of marriage) and come to the temple, celebrating the marriage of Lord Shiva to the Goddess Parvati. Here, married women pray for the health of their husbands. Celebrations are not confined to the temples – many town centres are also alive with music and women-only dancefloors!
Niger – the Cure Salee
In September following the monsoon season, the “Nomad Festival” swells the population of a tiny town in Northern Niger. Pilgrims from near and far arrive here with their cattle each year. In this area, the earth is rich and salty – hence the festival name “Salt Cure”. This is a harvest festival of multiple days with dances, camel races and plenty of meet-and-greet opportunities.
Photo by Dan Lundberg (Flickr) via Wikimedia Commons
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these eight cultural celebrations!
If you’re in London this Christmas, come celebrate with us on one of our Christmas specials.