1. People of many cultures around the globe use candles to symbolize an important aspect of the holiday tradition. Pick at least three or four holidays where the lightening of candles is significant?
2. What holiday is celebrated from December 26 to January 1st to honor African-American culture and community?
3. What holiday is considered the holiest day in the Buddhist religion, typically celebrated each April or May to commemorate the birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha?
4. It is one of Japan’s busiest holiday seasons. What is the name of the week that celebrates four national Japanese holidays?
5. What day, marked by the storming of a prison and the release of prisoners, started the French Revolution? It also is known as the French Independence Day.
6. One traditional story on the origin of Santa Claus dates back to 17th Century Holland when an elderly bishop would bring presents and sweets to children each December. What was his name?
7. The arrival of spring is celebrated differently around the world. Guess the name of the holiday in Pakistan celebrating spring’s arrival when young boys compete to see whose kite can stay airborne the longest?
8. In Ghana what is the name of the May deer hunting festival and competition for men and boys?
9. In Iran, the first day of spring marks the New Year with what traditional holiday?
10. There are two main Islamic festivals set down by Islamic law. One celebrates Abraham’s faith and the second celebrates the end of Ramadan. What are these two holidays?
11. There are many international holidays and festivals that have special breads associated with them. Name three or four festive breads and their corresponding holiday?
12. People from different cultures around the world celebrate the gathering of the year’s harvest. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, dating back to 1621 when Pilgrims shared a harvest celebration with the Native Wampanoag People. Can you name four other holidays or festivals that celebrate a particular country’s (or culture’s) harvest?
ABOAKYERE is a spring deer hunting festival celebrated by the Effutu people of Ghana, who make a special offer to the god Panche Otu. Two teams of men and boys, dressed in bright costumes, compete to be the first to bring back a live deer to present to the chief. The hunt is followed by a celebration and dancing. Sources and more information:
BASANT: Boys in South Asia, particularly Pakistan, celebrate the end of winter and the arrival of spring with kite-fighting contests and a holiday tradition called Basant. Although the event has led to controversy, injuries, and even power failure in Pakistan, boys continue to fly kites. The winner is the boy who can keep his kite in the air the longest. Sources and more information:
BASTILLE DAY, a French national holiday, commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison and the release of many prisoners. This day, which took place on July 14th, 1789, marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The Bastille was a prison and a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime. By capturing this symbol, the people signaled that the king's power was no longer absolute.
CHALLAH (Sabbath and other Jewish holidays): is special braided bread blessed and eaten by Jews on the Sabbath and holidays. Traditional Challah is made from eggs, white flour, and sugar. The laws of Kashrut prohibit the consumption of dairy and meat at the same meal, and since the first two Shabbat meals often include meat, classic Challah is parve (made without dairy products). The term challah also refers to a small piece of dough that is separated from the rest of the dough before braiding. In biblical times, this portion of the dough was set aside as a donation for the Jewish priesthood, this ritual is called “hafrashat challah” in Hebrew.
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CHRISTMAS is the Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus. One tradition of the Christmas season is the lighting of candles on an Advent wreath. The Advent wreath—made of fir branches, with four candles denoting the four Sundays of the Advent season. The custom, which began in the 19th century but had roots in the 16th, originally involved a fir wreath with 24 candles (the 24 days before Christmas, starting December 1), but the awkwardness of having so many candles on the wreath reduced the number to four. However, since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular family holiday, observed by Christians and non-Christians alike. A mythical figure named Santa Claus plays a pivotal role and is thought to deliver presents to boys and girls. Sources and more information:
CHU SUK is a Korean harvest celebration held on the 15th of the eighth month of the lunar calendar. Ancestors are remembered on this holiday through memorial services, visits to tombs, and offerings of fruit and rice. The holiday is also marked by a special family feast, which includes a traditional cake of rice, beans, sesame seeds, and chestnuts. On the eve of Chu Suk women gather for a special ceremony with singing and dancing. Chu Suk is the time to celebrate the family and give thanks for their blessings. Sources and more information:
CREPE ( Candlemas, La Chandeleur): a very thin cooked pancake, usually made from wheat flour, and popular throughout France. In France, crêpes were traditionally served on Candlemas (La Chandeleur), February 2. This day was originally Virgin Mary's Blessing Day but became known as avec Crêpe Day, referring to the tradition of offering avec crêpes. It is believed that if you could catch the crêpe with a frying pan after tossing it in the air with your left hand and holding a piece of gold on your right, you would become rich that year. Sources and more information:
DIWALI, a festival of lights celebrated across India each October or November, honors Lakshmi, India's goddess of prosperity and celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Although originally a Hindu celebration, Diwali, which lasts five days, is celebrated by non-Hindus today. Small clay saucers filled with oil and a cotton wick are placed near houses and along roads at night. Lit saucers are also floated on the sacred Ganges River. It is also a time when homes are cleaned and decorated, sweets are enjoyed, and fireworks shot into the sky. Sources and more information:
EID AL-ADHA (Festival of Sacrifice) is one of two main Islamic celebrations. It falls on the 10th day of the lunar month of Zul-Hijja and marks Abraham’s sacrifice. Today sheep, goats, and camels are offered to God (Allah), and the meat is distributed among family, friends, and the poor, who each get a third share. There is also time for prayer. Sources and more information:
EID AL-FITR (Festival of the Breaking of the Fast) is one of two main Islamic celebrations. It comes on the first day of the next lunar month, Shawal. Muslims are not only celebrating the end of fasting during the month of Ramadan, but are thanking God (Allah) for the help and strength that he gave them throughout the previous month to help them practice self-control. There are special prayers, meals, and celebrations and it is tradition to wear new or your best clothes and decorating your home. Sources and more information:
HANUKKAH (Chanukkah) (also called the Festival of Lights), usually celebrated in December, marks the battle that took place more than 2,000 years ago between a small band of Jews (the Maccabbees) and the army of the Syrian king, Antiochus, who tried to force the Jews to give up their religion. The Jews won back their Holy Temple in Jerusalem and found that when they relit the Temple Menorah (oil lamp) the oil, thought to be enough to last for only one day, burned for eight days. It is for this reason that Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, each night lighting an additional candle of the menorah. Sources and more information:
HARVEST HOME: In England the harvest festival is called Harvest Home and usually takes place during September after all of the crops have been harvested. Offerings of fruit and vegetables are placed around a church’s decorated altar for a thanksgiving service to ensure a bountiful crop in the next year. After the service the offerings are given to those less fortunate. Some families celebrate with a special meal, prayers, music, and dancing. Sources and more information:
HARVEST MOON FESTIVAL: The Chinese Harvest Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, is celebrated on the15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar in honor of the harvesting of the rice and wheat crops. Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season and family members and friends will gather to admire the bright and full mid-autumn moon, and eat moon cakes. The full moon is a symbol of luck, harmony, and abundance. Sources and more information:
HOMOWO FESTIVAL: The Homowo Festival, commonly referred to as the Yam Festival, is usually held in the beginning of August at the end of the rainy season and lasts three days. A popular holiday in Ghana and Nigeria, the Yam Festival is named after the most common food in many African countries. Yams are the first crops to be harvested. People offer yams to gods and ancestors first before distributing them to the villagers. Sources and more information:
HUTZELBROT (Christmas): is a Bavarian Christmas bread packed with dried fruits and nuts. It is sold in traditional town square Advent markets throughout southern Germany. Its origin is mainly in the region of the Alps and Vienna. Sources and more information:
JULEKAGE or YULE CAKE (Christmas): is sweet yeast Christmas bread served in Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. It is very similar to the Italian panettone, but features cardamom (instead of panettone's lemon and vanilla) as its chief flavor. It can be shaped in a free-form round, a rectangular sandwich type loaf, or as a braid or braided wreath. Each baker has his or her favorite combination of fried fruits, nuts, sugar, icing, and shaping method. Sources and more information:
KING CAKE (Christmas, Carnival, and Mardi Gras): is a type of cake associated with Christmas traditions in a number of countries (France, Portugal, Spain, Greece), and Carnival in others, including Mardi Gras celebrations in the United States. The cakes have a small trinket (usually a plastic baby) baked inside, and the person who receives the piece with the trinket is declared King/Queen of the party. Sources and more information:
KWANZAA is the world's fastest growing holiday and this year, more than 20 million people are expected to celebrate. Kwanzaa is a non-religious event honoring African-American culture and community. Kwanzaa's seven days of celebration, which begin on December 26 and end on January 1, focus on seven principles or goals: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). Candles representing the seven principles are lit each night for a week. Family and friends come together to take pride in their unique culture and to celebrate their common heritage. The word Kwanzaa is derived from Swahili words meaning "first fruits of the harvest," and the holiday includes many elements of traditional African harvest celebrations. The most joyous and elaborate of Kwanzaa's gatherings takes place on December 31, the 6th day of the holiday period. On that night, a great feast (karamu) is held. Families and friends gather to eat, drink, sing, dance, and read stories and poems celebrating their cultural heritage. Everyone sips from the unity cup and many people exchange gifts. Sources and more information:
LAS POSADAS is a tradition in Mexico to celebrate the nine days of Christmas, December 16-24. During these nine days children walk in a procession (posada) carrying clay figures of the biblical Mary, Joseph, and the donkey to symbolize the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph. The children call on the houses of neighbors and friends and sing a song that asks for food and lodging for the weary Mary and Joseph. At each home they are told, "There is no room at the inn." At the last house of the evening there is a party and a piñata. On the last evening of the celebration, December 24, a manger, a stable, and shepherds are added to the procession of clay figures. Mary and Joseph are welcomed into the last home at which they stop, prayers are said, and a figurine representing the baby Jesus is placed in the manger. Families then go to church to pray. Religious services are followed by parties and celebrations. Sources and more information:
LOI KRATHONG FESTIVAL is a holiday celebrated each November in Thailand. "Loi" means "to float" and a "Krathong" is a lotus-shaped vessel made of banana leaves. The Krathong usually contains a candle, three joss-sticks, some flowers and coins. The festival starts on the November night with a full moon. People offer thanks to the Goddess of water by lightening the candles, making a wish, and placing the Krathongs in a nearby river. It is believed that the Krathongs carry away bad luck. Sources and more information:
MATZA (Passover): is cracker-like bread made of white plain flour and water. The dough is not allowed to rise during baking, and produces hard, flat bread served as a substitute for leavened bread during the Jewish holiday of Passover (when eating leavened products is forbidden). There are several historical and symbolic explanations for Matza bread. Passover is the Jewish celebration of the exodus from Egypt —and it is said that Jews left in such haste, their bread dough didn’t even have time to rise. Matza also serves as a symbol of redemption, freedom, and humility for Jewish worshipers on this holiday.
NOWRUZ is the traditional Iranian new year holiday celebrated in many countries of Central Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe and elsewhere. Nowrūz marks the first day of spring, the beginning of the Iranian year, and the beginning of the Bahá'í year. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday, it is also a holy day for adherents of Sufism as well as the Bahá'í faith. Sources and more information:
OBON: Japanese people keep the memory of their ancestors alive with a summer festival called Obon. Lanterns with lit candles are floated on rivers and seas. People also visit and clean the graves of those who have died. In the ancient city of Kyoto, people light giant bonfires. Sources and more information:
PAN DE MUERTO (Día de muertos): a type of bread from Mexico that is baked during the Día de muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, around September, October, and early November. Pan de muerto is soft bread covered with sugar, round-shaped or shaped into representations of bones and skulls. Sources and more information:
PANETTONE (Christmas and New Years): a cake-like traditional bread of Milan, Italy usually prepared for the Christmas and New Years holidays. Panettone has a dome-like shape and contains candied orange and lemon zest and raisins that are added dry (not soaked). Traditionally, it is served in vertically-sliced pieces with a hot beverage or a sweet wine. There are many versions of this sweet, holiday bread—it is babka in the Jewish culture, baba au rhum in French, and Alsatians kugelhopf in Viennese. Sources and more information:
PIDE (Ramadan): This Turkish festive bread is topped with Sesame and Fennel seeds and usually prepared during the festive season of Bayram (Muslim Ramadan). It is related to the famed bread of the Franks and Armenians which is mentioned in the great eleventh-century cookbook of Al-Baghdadi. Sources and more information:
PONGAL is a popular harvest festivals of South India (primarily Tamil Nadu). Pongal falls in mid-January and lasts four or more days. Prayers are offered to the Sun God and festivities include special decorations and the preparation and eating of specific dishes, including Sarkkarai Pongal, made from sweet milk, nuts, rice, clove, and cardamom. Sources and more information:
SINTER KLAAS: An early representation of Santa Claus was Sinter Klaas (Saint Nicholas), the Dutch old man who brought presents, candy, and sweets to kids during a December 6th parade. As legend has it, Sinter Klaas wore a bishop's robe, gloves and red neckwear and rode a white horse. The legend of Sinter Klaas was transported to New Amsterdam (New York City), along with the custom of giving gifts and sweets to children on his feast day, of December 6th. Over time and the legend having crossed many national boundaries Saint Nicholas is no longer generally associated with the sixth of December, but with the Christmas holiday on December twenty-fifth. Sources and more information:
ST. LUCIA DAY is a celebration on December 13th to honor this third-century saint. Many girls in Sweden dress up as "Lucia brides" in long white gowns with red sashes, and a wreath of burning candles on their heads. They wake up their families by singing songs and bringing them coffee and twisted saffron buns called "Lucia cats."
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TET TRUNG THU, or mid-Autumn Moon Festival, is an ancient festival of Vietnam that revolves around children and the celebration of the harvest. It is traditionally held on the 15th day of the 8th Lunar Month and it is believed that this festival originally came about as a way for parents to make up for lost time with their children after harvest season. The festival traditionally was held under the full moon, which represents fullness and prosperity of life. Today, children parade in the streets carrying lanterns and take part in special dances. Moon cakes are also a traditional food for this celebration. Sources and more information:
TSOUREKI (Easter): Greek brioche-like, rich bread (often braided) served during the Easter holiday. The bread is traditionally made with the essence of Mediterranean wild cherry seeds and adorned with red-dyed Easter eggs or red rosebuds (to represent the blood of Christ, new life and springtime). The bread is typically eaten during the Resurrection meal, after 40 days of fasting (dictated by the Greek Orthodox Church). Sources and more information:
VESAK is the holiest day in Buddhism to celebrate the birth, the Enlightenment, and the death of the Buddha. Buddhists all over the world by celebrate differently. Celebrations can be large affairs, feasts, or festivals, or small ceremonies, filled with meditation. It is marked by special devotional services and various deeds intended to be meritorious, such as the presentation of food or alms to monks or the release of captive birds. This holiday goes by other names including: Buddha Purinama, Wesak, and Visakha Puja, but the reason for celebrating is the same. Sources and more information:
1. Possible answers could include: Christmas, Diwali, Hannukkah/Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Loi Krathong, Las Posadas, Obon, and St. Lucia Day
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