5 Culturally Diverse Holidays Between Now and February (and how to celebrate)

This year, I'm challenging myself to look at the holidays a little differently.

I don’t know about you, but my family’s holiday traditions are deeply rooted in ritual - they’re passed down through the generations and beloved as an ancestral connection. The more I learn about what these traditions look like for others, the more I realize how connected we all are, even in our differences. This year, I challenged myself to look at the holiday season through a new lens, exploring holidays belonging to cultures other than my own.

Stepping outside of your personal traditions helps you think critically about how you view the world around you, and it encourages you to question how you engage with that world. If you’d like to look at the holidays a little differently this year, too, I encourage you to find ways to go deeper! While it’s necessary to respect the sacredness of certain traditions, there are many ways to educate yourself or get involved. Support others in their celebrations, learn more about the holidays they hold dear, and participate in (or honor the spirit of) the holiday however you can.

If you’d like to look at the holidays a little differently this year, too, I encourage you to find ways to go deeper! Support others in their celebrations, learn more about the holidays they hold dear, or respectfully participate in the spirit of the event however you can.

Dia De Los Muertos Alter of candles, flowers, and more

Día de los Muertos--November 2

Día de los Muertos, which means Day of the Dead in Spanish, is celebrated in Mexico and by Mexican-Americans throughout the United States. It’s a beautiful mix of art, grief, family, and a celebration of life.

Small ways you can learn more about Día de los Muertos:

  • Watch Pixar’s Coco and talk about it with your children
  • Find a local Mexican bakery and try pan de muerto, a Mexican pastry (or make your own)
  • Volunteer with RAICES (the Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services) to support Mexican immigrants
  • If you live in Austin, visit the Mexic-Arte Museum to explore traditional and contemporary Mexican + Latino art and culture

    Woman lighting lanterns around her pool

    Diwali--November 14

    Diwali is a Hindu celebration known as the “festival of lights.” It celebrates the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, and good over evil, and actually lasts five days. Hindus celebrate by spending time with each other (which, of course, includes feasting!), setting off fireworks, cleaning and decorating homes, wearing new clothes, and giving each other gifts.

    Small ways you can learn more about Diwali:

    • Light an oil lamp and reflect quietly on the year gone by, and pray for the year to come
    • Read about one woman’s experiences celebrating Diwali as a young girl growing up in Texas or read one of these beautiful books about Diwali to your children

    Donate to the Anti-Racist Children’s Books Education Fund to help confront growing anti-immigration and racist attitudes in the United States and build a safe place for Indian-Americans

      boy lighting a 6 candle menorah

      Hanukkah--December 10-December 18

      Hanukkah is a Jewish festival with a long, beautiful history. Like Diwali, Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights. To celebrate Hanukkah, a menorah, a type of candelabrum with nine candles, is lit each night and a prayer is said. Jewish families also celebrate with traditional foods like latkes and playing games with dreidels.

      Small ways you can learn more about Hanukkah:

      • Each night of Hanukkah, turn off the lights and light a candle (not a menorah, unless you’re Jewish). You can use this opportunity to reflect on something you’re grateful for.
      • Read a book about Hanukkah with your kids

      Donate to the Anti-Defamation League to combat hate and intolerance of all kinds, including anti-semitism

        Man and girl in traditional African garb

        Kwanzaa--December 26-January 1

        Kwanzaa was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966 to give Black Americans an opportunity to celebrate themselves, their history, and values like unity, working together, and faith. On December 31, Kwanzaa is celebrated with a feast, and on January 1, it’s celebrated with thoughtful, often hand-made gifts that celebrate African heritage and culture.

        Small ways you can learn more about Kwanzaa:

        • Watch The Black Candle, a Kwanzaa documentary narrated by Maya Angelou
        • Purchase gifts for friends and family members from Black makers and designers or Black-owned shops
        • Find and listen to some of the amazing African musicians working in their own native countries and languages right now (Beyoncé’s Lion King: The Gift is a great place to start!)

        a festive array of food and someone grabbing an orange from it

        Spring Festival & Lunar New Year--February 4

        In 2022, February 4th marks the new year on the traditional Chinese calendar and the start of the 15-day Chinese celebration known as the Spring Festival. Chinese people celebrate by decorating with red (it symbolizes good luck), eating symbolic foods like dumplings (they symbolize wealth), and gifting children and young adults with red envelopes filled with money. The last day of the festival is a full moon; lanterns are lit and hung everywhere.

        • Make your own paper lanterns and fill them with electric candles; light on the last day of the Spring Festival
        • Fill red envelopes with gifts and hand them out to friends and family members to celebrate (avoid giving money in odd numbers or in fours - that’s bad luck!)
        • Educate yourself on America’s history of racism towards Asians and Asian-Americans

        We only had room to scratch the surface on all the amazing holidays this fall/winter (other fun holidays to learn more about: Día de Reyes, Boxing Day, Las Posadas, and the Winter Solstice).

        Which holidays do you celebrate? We’d love to hear more in the comments below!

        Sarah Guerrero
        Sarah Guerrero
        Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.