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Winter holidays around the world

While Christmas is the most common winter holiday in the U.S., there are a variety of other winter holidays celebrated around the world. The winter solstice is a common date for winter celebrations all over the world since it is the longest night of the entire year. There are sites of ancient buildings that were built to accent astronomical events such as the winter solstice.

These solstice commemorations are also suspected to have had an effect on the dates of many other winter holidays, and while some of these celebrations are lost to time, there are many still celebrated on the date of the solstice in modern times.

Midwinter in Antarctica is celebrated on the winter solstice, the elongated night having more drastic effects closer to the poles and creating a full twenty-four hour period where the sun does not rise at all.

Soyal is a holiday celebrated by the Zuni and Hopi tribes on the winter solstice.

Yalda, also on the solstice, is celebrated in Persia (modern-day Iran) and occurs on the last day of the Persian month Azar. The holiday commemorates the sun god Mithra, and celebrates the growing days after the solstice, and often includes a feast.

Dong Zhi, translated as the arrival of winter, also falls between Dec. 21-23, and is commonly celebrated in China. This holiday is a time for families to come together and celebrate the year. It is suspected by historians to have started as marking the end of the harvest season, particularly due to the associations with food.

Inti Raymi, originally an Incan holiday to Inti, the sun god, has made a comeback in Peru centuries after being banned. The festivities involve feasts and celebrants have toned down the more questionable aspects of the holiday that got it banned in the first place.

St. Lucia's day is a festival of lights also celebrated around the winter solstice in Scandinavia, although the holiday is suspected to be somewhat based in historical Norse traditions.

Jolabokaflod is a holiday originating in Iceland and closely associated with Christmas, the word quite literally meaning Christmas book flood. Reading is a fairly common hobby in Iceland. Jolabokaflod is a holiday where celebrants exchange a gift of books with each other on Christmas Eve, and spend the rest of the night reading.

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated mainly in Britain, but also other Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand, and was started during the Victorian Era to give gifts to those in need. Whether gifts to charities, churches, or gifts from upper class residents to their servants after Christmas, it is a holiday associated with gift giving, charity, and after Christmas sales.

Most cultures throughout history have some sort of celebration for the new year, or at least seasonal time passing, whether based on a solar or lunar calendar. The majority of New Year's celebrations actually take place in the fall, around October to September. New Year's is generally celebrated in the United States on the first day of the Gregorian calendar year, or January first. The lunar new year generally occurs in late January or early February.

Even though the astronomical event of the winter solstice is a major factor in the origins of many winter holidays, historians suspect that the plethora of holidays in winter is to cheer everyone up through the darker, colder months.


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