Jef Nickerson, Flickr / Koichi Kamoshida, Getty Images / Cindy Funk, Flickr / Stephen Chernin, Getty Images
Most of us are looking forward to the gift giving and family dinners associated with the traditional December holidays. But many people from all over the world, however, are instead ready to dress up, storm the streets or even just sleep an extra day. Here are some December festivities worth some hype that don’t get quite as much attention as Christmas and Hanukkah.
All over the world — December 8
This pre-Christmas holiday is actually celebrated by a few very Catholic countries and celebrates the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin all her life. It is a day of feasting, but also involves a required visit to church for prayer and reflection. People sometimes think the name of the day refers to the Immaculate Conception of Jesus, but it actually signifies the day his mother Mary was conceived.
beggs, Flickr / Franco Origlia, Getty Images
The current emperor’s birthday is always a national holiday in Japan. Since Emperor Akihito, who has been Japan’s emperor for more than 20 years, was born on December 23rd, his birthday celebrations coincide with Western celebrations of Christmas. On this day, there will be a public celebration at the Imperial Palace, which will open its doors to citizens. When a new emperor is put in place, the date of this holiday will change to be held on his birthday.
Koichi Kamoshida, Getty Images
Besides Christmas, Pakistanis celebrate another important event on December 25th. This is the day they commemorate the birth of their country’s founder Quaid-e-Azam (Muhammed Al Jinnah). Jinnah was born on December 25, 1876 and founded Pakistan in 1947. There is a ceremonial changing of the guard to mark the day and the nation often remembers its founder by holding seminars, debates and programs to discuss Jinnah’s work and vision. Special programs and patriotic songs are also broadcast on television throughout the day.
Syed Zargahm, Getty Images
US — December 26 to January 1
Over the last several years, this celebration of African heritage in our country has gotten to share the limelight with Christmas a little bit more. In reality, it was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga. The seven-day festival celebrates the principles of unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith, one for each day of the celebration. While celebratory of African customs, the holiday was created in the US to give African-Americans an “alternative to the existing holiday and… an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history.”
Stephen Chernin, Getty Images
It’s there on the calendar every year and it seems like a good excuse to punch your family, but what is Boxing Day really? The answer is that nobody knows for sure. The traditional day dates back to the middle ages, where some believe that in England the servants were given their Christmas gifts in boxes on the day after Christmas. Boxing Day is observed in many nations around the world, although in some countries it’s known as St. Stephens day. In Canada, there is a tradition of lining up early and spending the day shopping the Boxing Day Sales, much like our post-Thanksgiving Black Friday. There is also a tradition of spending the day watching sports.
Denmark’s 2 Juledag, or 2nd Day of Christmas, is similar to Boxing Day and St. Stephen’s Day recognized in other countries, it's just known by a different name. However, they do not have a tradition of after-Christmas shopping on this day, as most businesses are not open. December 26th is a national holiday where families can just extend the Christmas celebrations one more day to enjoy each other, new gifts and sleeping off the holiday feasts.
Junkanoo is a loud, colorful and boisterous street celebration that begins at about 2 a.m. in the Bahamas and ends at dawn. It is intended to ring in the first day after Christmas. The festival is a series of parades in many cities in which participants dress in bright costumes and dance wildly to rhythmic percussion. There is also Junkanoo during the early morning hours of the first day of the New Year.