The holidays are just around the corner. Christmas carols have blasted from shop windows for much too long. Presents have been or are being bought and children across the planet are slowly reaching a pitch of excitement that will only lead to their parents’ wallets becoming significantly lighter.
However, as this Christian holidays wraps itself festively around every lamp post, every tree, every wall and musical note floating around the capital, London does offer the chance to elude the overly commercialised nature of Christmas.
Here we list the multicultural events celebrated in December which offer a reprieve from the Christmas cheer:
16-24 December: Hanukkah
Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is the Jewish Festival of Lights.This celebrates when an oil lamp stayed burning in a temple for eight nights and days during a period of unrest. The miracle is commemorated by lighting a special candle called a menorah, a candle is lit each day for eight days. Hanukkah is also a great time to enjoy food, drinks, music, games and generally have fun with friends.
17-23 December: Saturnalia or Winter Solstice
This ancient Roman festival celebrates the winter solstice and the god Saturn. The holiday was celebrated with a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”
The Winter Solstice is celebrated in England, particularly at Stonehenge in Wiltshire where the position of the stones is significant.
21-25 December: Pancha Ganapati
This Hindu festival honours Lord Ganesha, god of art and culture. The festival was created in 1985 as a Hindu alternative to December holiday so that Hindu people could join in with the atmosphere of fun and friendship around Christmas time.
Five different colours represent the five days of the festival – yellow, blue, red, green and orange – what better way to show off those colours by pouring them into some traditional Indian sweets?
21 December: Dongzhi Festival
The Dongzhi Festival is a Far East celebration of the winter solstice. Originating in China, it is also observed in Japan, Taiwan, the Koreas and Vietnam. It’s a time for the family to get together and traditionally eat Tangyuan which are rice balls soaked in rice wine.
25 December: Peter Pan Cup at the Serpentine
While not a festival, this makes our list for those wishing to do something a bit different. The Serpentine Swimming Club have been swimming 100-yards across the Serpentine since 1864. They train for months to get used to the cold temperatures and the winner gets the Peter Pan Cup, donated by J. M. Barrie in 1904, the same year his play Peter Pan made its debut on the London stage. The race starts on the southern side of the lake, remember to wrap up warm! More info HERE.
26 December: Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and is gradually spreading. The celebration honours African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. The festival is fairly new to the UK and it’s a time to focus on black history and culture – and have a big party, of course, with events in Leeds and London taking centre stage.
31 December: New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay in Scotland)
This celebration traditionally lasts a couple days and the night of the 31st is one for fireworks and cheer, culminating in the singing of Auld Lang Syne at midnight.
How will you be celebrating? Let us know in the comments.