Pierce Pioneer

Holidays Around The World

Jill Wellington / Pixabay / Courtesy Photo

Every winter, people decorate their houses with lights, set up Christmas trees, and celebrate the new year with fireworks. Christmas and New Year’s are largely recognized as traditional holidays of the U.S., but what about winter holidays that are celebrated in other countries that we may not know about?

Pashminu Mansukhani / Pixabay / Courtesy Photo


Frida Gabot / Pixabay / Courtesy Photo

St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia Day

Diwali (Festival of Lights) is a Hindu holiday that occurs in either October or November. Good is celebrated over evil by decorating houses with colorful lights and by gifting others. They also worship the Hindu goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Diwali has become recognizable worldwide from India to the United Kingdom, and the vibrant festivals last up to five days.

In Europe, Christian festivals such as St. Nicholas Day and St. Lucia Day are celebrated. On Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated similarly to Christmas. Children write letters to Saint Nicholas and he leaves presents for them in the morning. Then, on Dec. 13, St. Lucia Day honors Saint Lucia, a Christian martyr. Children dress in white with the eldest daughter serving coffee and sweets to family members. It is a ceremony of lights and songs, celebrated mostly in Sweden.

Anza Trail NPS / Flickr / Courtesy Photo

Las Posadas

Micheal / Pixabay / Courtesy Photo


Over in Latin America, the Mexican holiday Las Posadas occurs from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24. People parade the streets singing Christmas carols and holding candles. Communities are brought closer with dinner and parties. After dinner, members of the community take turns hitting a piñata which represents the seven deadly sins. Each night is a party until Christmas day.

Hanukkah (Chanukah), a historical Jewish holiday, begins Dec. 22 to Dec. 30. In Israel, they celebrate a victory won in battle over the Jewish Temple years ago. Also referred to as “Festival of Lights,” a menorah is lit every night for eight nights in a row. To thank God, blessings and the Hallel prayer are spoken. Children play with dreidels and are given money as presents for good behavior.

Thinkstock / Courtesy Photo


stock luong / Pixabay / Courtesy Photo

New Year's

Kwanzaa takes place Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 and is widely celebrated by African Americans and African culture. The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) has each principle observed for each day. These values contribute to the progress and hard work that people of African heritage have had to go through. Red, black, and green clothing are worn to symbolize the efforts for social change of the past and the future.

New Year’s is observed diversely around the world with some events on different days. On Dec. 31, Japan calls it “Omisoka” where cleaning one’s home and self is important as they enter the new year. In Denmark, citizens smash plates and jump off chairs to bring good fortune. On Feb. 8, both the Chinese New Year (Lunar New Year) and Korean New Year (Seollal) brings family reunions and hosts parades. During the Chinese New Year, family members give out money in red envelopes to symbolize good luck.

International winter holidays may not appear to be as prevalent in the U.S. but they’re still joyfully celebrated elsewhere. It’s an opportunity for families to truly take a break from their busy schedules to spend time together. Whether holidays are celebrated religiously or culturally, individuals can end the past year on a good note and look forward to the start of a new year worldwide.

Stepping Into the Chinese New Year


How students at Pierce celebrate

Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of the new year on the Chinese calendar. It is one of the world’s most prominent and celebrated festivals. However, not everyone gets to experience the celebration in their home country. Many students who are studying abroad in the U.S. find ways to celebrate here. 

In an email sent by Erik Gimness, director of Institutional Research at Pierce, he said, “Last year we had 96 international students from China. This year, we have 50 international students from China as of winter quarter. However, we are expecting that number to grow in spring.”

Gimness said, “In general, enrollments vary a bit from year to year, but I would be surprised if by the end of spring quarter we still saw such a large decrease from last year. Also, the International Education program is projecting an increase in spring quarter,” he added.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration
Tracey Vo’s favorite Chinese New Year tradition is the decorating competition of lucky money. If you win the competition, you can get more lucky money that year.

Although it is not a formal holiday in the U.S., it is still thought of and observed by those who live here from abroad. Two students spoke about their experiences with the holiday back home and what they liked best about it. 

Loan Vo, or “Tracey” as she is known at Pierce, is in her second quarter studying business but thinking about transferring to marketing management. Vo chose to study here at Pierce because she enjoys Washington’s weather, and the classes were convenient for her. 

Vo talked about her fond memories of the holiday. “There’s always the traditional food. Pork and eggs and a special cake is always made,” she said. “There are also lucky wars – competitions that happen throughout the holiday.”  

Sabrina Li, a peer tutor in the tutoring center, is in her third year at Pierce. She is studying business and came to Pierce through the Running Start program. She enjoys being in leadership positions and connecting on campus. Li also observes the holiday here in the states – or tries to, at least. 

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration
Sabrina Li’s favorite Chinese New Year tradition is lucky money, and her favorite symbol is 春, which means “spring.”

“I want to celebrate with my host family, but it’s a little tricky compared to home with all that’s involved,” Li said. “My favorite part back home was being with family and watching the Gala (a Chinese New Year special produced by China Central Television).” Li enjoys being in leadership positions and connecting on campus.

There are, of course, differences between the Chinese New Year and the New Year’s celebrations that are held in the U.S. “It lasts three to four days longer, and there’s ‘lucky money’ (money that is given at the end of competitions to younger people by older people),” Vo said.

“Every Chinese person goes home, it’s really crowded, the businesses close down. The important part (of Chinese New Year) is the unity and love. It has a long, long history,” Li added.

Vo, when asked if she had her favorite things to pick from the holiday, she said, “The food and lucky money and being together with family.”

International Education and ASPIRE Waymakers hosted a Chinese New Year event in the Fireside and Performance lounges. It included additional booths in the hallway.

This year’s theme was Tet 2019 (the Vietnamese New Year), looking at how the Vietnamese culture celebrates the Lunar New Year, which is similar to Chinese New Year. The stage was set up for various performances. There was also food tables featuring Vietnamese food.

Alyssa Donaldson, an ASPIRE coordinator that worked on the event, said, “This is our second time collaborating with International Education. We went with the Vietnamese theme this year because we try to highlight one country’s look on the Lunar New Year and not just one group.”

Art project tables such as calligraphy and origami were also available for the arts-and-crafts-minded.

A kid zone was available during the event for those who had children with them. There was also a K-pop booth.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

If you have events you would like to collaborate on with ASPIRE or International Education, contact the International Education department at: [email protected]

Hallway Hassle: Black Panther

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

The Pioneer intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Pioneer does not allow anonymous comments, and The Pioneer requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All Pierce Pioneer Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest