With a global-mindset increasingly important in contemporary society, it is appropriate to look at some of the major cultural, religious and national holidays that affect different parts of the world.
Nowadays, Christmas is probably the most commercialized and widely known celebration in most Christian cultures and many Western countries. Together with the New Year, which is actually based on a pagan celebration, most countries enjoy a ten-day period of celebration with their families or take this opportunity to travel.
But there are other major celebrations occurring around the world, religious and not.
Let’s look at some of them:
Golden Weeks (China & Japan)
China National Day is celebrated on 1 October, but many companies and government agencies stay close for the whole week to allow families to get together. Given the huge geographical size of the country, many people need to travel for several hours, or even days, to reach their families on the other side of China and some of the worst traffic jams in the world are to be seen on China’s roads during the Golden Week.
A second holiday week surrounds the Chines New Year festivities which coincides with the new moon between 21 Jan and 20 February.
Also, Japan enjoys a similar Golden Week in late April early May. The country celebrates a number of remarkable and important dates: Showa Day on 29 April (commemorating Emperor Showa Hirohito 1926-1988), Constitution Memorial Day on 3 May, Greenery Day on 4 May and Children’s Day on May 5.
Persian Nowruz ( Iran and central Asia)
Nowruz literally “new day” in Persian, is the name of the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by the Iranians and other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year.
Although having Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethno-linguistic communities for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans.
Scientifically, Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) in the Iranian calendar. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. The exact moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated every year. Families gather together, usually at the eldest family’s member home to eat traditional food and observe the rituals.
Semana Santa (Spain & Hispanic countries)
The Semana Santa, Holy Week in Spanish, is celebrated the week before Easter in many Catholic and Spanish-speaking countries. Festivities are characterized by street parades and processions in the streets and usually, many businesses close down for the whole week.
The Spanish southern region of Andalucia is quite famous for its religious celebrations which are very accurate and almost lavish.
Dia de los Muertos (Mexico)
During the Dia de Los Muertos Mexicans honor loved ones that have passed. Homes are decorated with altars, flowers, and pictures of the deceased ones. Prior to the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of summer. Gradually, it was associated with October 31, November 1, and November 2 to coincide with the Christian celebration of Allhallowtide: All Saints All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, most know as Halloween.
Traditions connected with this celebration include building private altars called ofrendas, preparing the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.
The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. The Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam and it lasts 29–30 days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.
During this period, all adult Muslims are expected to fast during daylight hours from dawn until sunset and refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids and smoking as an act of purification and cleaning the soul.