Holidays Around the World: From Christmas to Chinese New Year
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Holidays Around the World: From Christmas to Chinese New Year

What is the most celebrated seasonal holiday around the world? Christmas may be the answer. It’s estimated that more than two billion people in the world celebrate Christmas, and that includes some folks you may not expect.

In Thailand where about 90-percent of the population is Buddhist, many locals still adore Santa and exchange gifts on December 25. This happens in other countries as well.

Below is a look at how Christmas is celebrated in some countries, along with a glance at other major holidays  around the world.

Christmas – December 25

In some countries, celebrations of Christmas begin on Christmas Eve and extend into other days. In Costa Rica, many Catholics attend midnight Mass or Misa de Gallo – Mass of the Rooster. Afterwards, they eat their main Christmas meal.

These celebrations may last for days as they mark Boxing Day on December 26 and then have parades and carnivals that continue until January.

In some other countries, residents begin celebrating Christmas much earlier. One example is  Iceland. In that nation, the Yule Lads leave gifts for children in their shoes on the 13 days before Christmas, unless they misbehave. If that happens, they’ll end up with rotten potatoes.


Judaism celebrates its holiest holiday in September (see below), but in November and/or December Jews spend eight-days observing Hanukkah or Chanukah. It commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the second century B.C. following the Maccabean Revolt.

The modern version of Hanukkah often includes gift giving and eating potato pancakes or latkes. In Morocco, many Jews eat citrus doughnuts called sfenj instead, which are made using oranges that come into season in early winter.

Many cities light large menorahs during the holiday. This includes Rome, New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv and Hong Kong.

Kwanzaa – December 26 – January 1

The holiday celebrates African-American culture and culminates with a feast called Karamu. It began back in 1966 and centers around seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

New Year’s Day – January 1

This day is celebrated by nations following the Gregorian calendar. New York’s countdown in Times Square is famous for its music-field event that welcomes the new year. But the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Sydney, Australia may be larger.

Rio’s Copacabana Beach hosts festivities that normally attract more than two million people, who often wear white attire. During the event, planners combine African and local rituals to honor the goddess of the sea.

Meanwhile, Sydney often boasts the world’s largest fireworks display. And that is often seen by the rest of the world hours before they ring in the new year because of time zone differences.

Chinese New Year

Countries following the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar welcome a new year, based on the Chinese zodiac signs.  In 2024 that was the year of the dragon. The dragon is is known for being confident, intelligent, and enthusiastic.

During celebrations, many children dress in new clothes. Adults carry lanterns and join in parades led by a silk dragon, which is the Chinese symbol of strength.

Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr

Ramadan is the holy month of fasting for Muslims and Eid Al-Fitr is a celebration that marks the end of the fasting. Ramadan fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam while Eid Al-Fitr is a time for family gatherings with food, drinks, presents and new clothes. During this time, Muslims are encouraged to forgive and seek forgiveness.

Hassan II Mosque

Some Rustic students have had the opportunity to visit the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca while traveling through the country. Copyright: © 2013 Rustic Pathways

Depending on the country, Eid can last two to three days. This Eid is one of two on the Muslim calendar. The “greater Eid” – Eid al-Adha – is marked in June. It is a feast of sacrifice that occurs at the end of the Hajj, which is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Vaisakhi – April 13 or 14

This Sikh New Year festival is celebrated by millions of Sikhs in India and elsewhere in the world. It is one of the most important dates for the faith and marks the start of the Punjabi New Year. It also celebrates the year when Sikhism was born as a faith in 1699.

Farmers use this day to give thanks for a plentiful harvest and pray for a good one in the future. Many Sikhs also use this day to be baptized.

Vesak  – May

This is the most sacred day for Buddhists around the world. It is the day of the full moon in the month of May. It marks the day that Buddha was born. During this holiday, Buddhists arrive at the temple before dawn and have a time of meditation and observing the eight precepts of the faith.

Wat Chedi Luang in Thailand with Rustic Pathways

Copyright: Rustic Pathways

Yom Kippur

This Day of Atonement is the holiest holiday on the Jewish calendar. It comes after a period of introspection called the 10 Days of Awe and after Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. During Yom Kippur, Jews are encouraged to ask forgiveness for sins committed during the past year. The holiday includes a 25-hour fast and a special religious service.


This festival of lights is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. It usually lasts five days. Various lights are often illuminated during the festivities, including candles, firecrackers and clay lamps called diyas. They symbolize an inner light over spiritual darkness. Like other celebrations, people often gather for the holiday for family dinners and other festivities.

Winter Holidays

Overall, the winter is a busy time of year as many holidays are celebrated during this season. Watch our video below for some of the most popular winter holidays celebrated around the world.

These holidays are just a few of the many events celebrated around the world each year. If you have a favorite holiday or tradition you’d like to share, please leave it in the comments.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Content Writer

Mary is a Content Writer at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.