The festival calendar in India is packed with excitement throughout the year, with countless joyous celebrations that take place one after the other. Some are religious celebrations while others are traditional to a particular community or geographical area. With many states and union territories, India is a pluralistic and multi-ethnic democracy that’s home to a large population of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Buddhists, Jews and followers of folk religions, so it’s no wonder that there’s always something to celebrate! Holi, Diwali, Eid, Gurpurab, Onam, Pongal, Christmas and many more. India really is the land of festivals!
But it’s not just India, people in different countries around the world celebrate festivals too and these days it’s very easy for us to find out about and celebrate each other’s traditions.
Let’s learn about a few festivals that are eagerly looked forward to every year.
Diwali is a Hindu festival that is celebrated around the world. Also known as the festival of lights, people who celebrate Diwali decorate their houses with lamps, lights, candles and flowers to symbolize the victory of light over darkness. The date on which Diwali is celebrated changes every year because it is determined by the lunar calendar. Diwali occurs in October or November on what is considered to be the darkest, most sacred night of the year. People from every community enjoy celebrating Diwali, and with Indian people settled in countries across the world, the spirit of Diwali has spread far and wide.
What immediately comes to mind when you think about Christmas? For many of us it’s Christmas trees, gifts, snow, delicious food and Christmas carols! Christian people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on the 25th of December every year. Christmas is also celebrated all over the world and since it occurs at the end of the year, it is a great opportunity for people of all cultures and religions to get together and celebrate with friends and family.
Eid is a day of celebration that arrives at the end of Ramadan – the holy month of fasting. The exact day of the festival varies each year depending on when the new moon is first seen. Eid-al-Fitr is all about spreading the message of peace and love through greetings and prayers. It’s also a day to feast on delicious food that all of us look forward to! Everyone is welcomed wholeheartedly to share the festive joy, food and celebrations with Muslim friends and families.
This festival is one of the most looked forward to by children and adults alike – especially in the USA! One of the most famous Halloween traditions is “trick or treat”, when children dress up in costumes and knock on their neighbor’s doors to ask for candy and other treats. If the neighbors don’t give them a treat, then the children play a trick! So, watch out! Halloween is also the time to celebrate all things spooky and scary. It is thought that the holiday originated in Ireland as the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, which took place at the end of the harvest season and indicated that the darker part of the year
(winter) had arrived. Samhain was observed on the 1st of November and the night before was called All Hallows Eve. So that’s why the 31st of October is now called Halloween.
Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
February is a month of celebration in Brazil! Believed to have originated from an ancient Greek fete that honored Dionysus, the God of wine, the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro is now celebrated on the Friday before the Catholic fasting season of Lent begins. The fabulous Carnival parades are part of a week-long celebration and feature an explosion of vibrant costumes, music, and dance. The Carnival in Rio is believed to be the biggest of its kind in the world with more than 2 million people attending on each day!
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Rosh Hashanah marks what Jewish people believe was the beginning of creation and usually occurs in September. The festival takes place over 10 days and culminates in Yom Kippur, another holy day. Rosh Hashanah – unlike other festivals which are often loud and colorful – is a quiet and subdued celebration in which people reflect, contemplate and visit the synagogue.
Celebrated primarily in the state of Kerala in India, Onam is a ten-day long harvest festival during which people pray, dance, sing and participate in boat races called Vallamkali, amongst many other activities. On the day of Onam people eat a feast – the Onam sadya – that is served on traditional banana leaves and is made up of at least 26 different items. Onam is known as the festival of joy and happiness and the people of Kerala celebrate it wherever they happen to be in the world.
Chuseok is one of the biggest, most enthusiastically celebrated festivals in South Korea. It is most often a 3-day holiday to celebrate the bountiful harvest. People travel to their hometowns to meet their families, prepare food and spend time together. They also carry out ceremonies of great significance called Charye and Seongmyo to show respect for their ancestors to whom the good harvest is attributed.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day
This is a very important holiday that acknowledges and celebrates the culture and histories of Native American peoples. Since Indigenous peoples were living on the continent long before it was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus, the day is celebrated to honour them and educate people about their proud histories and the severe injustices they’ve had to experience.
Reading more about these and other celebrations around the world is a great way to not only learn about people and cultures but also improve your reading comprehension skills and build your vocabulary. To improve your English skills, take one of our Burlington English online courses and you will soon be able to read, write, and speak fluently in English. Our expert tutors will guide you, recommend further reading material and help you practice your spoken English.
Our Burlington English spoken English online course packages also feature our patented Speech Trainer® technology which listens to your speech and corrects your errors so that you can have conversations about the festivals of the world with perfect pronunciation!