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Holidays Celebrated Around the World

Carolyn Girard, Print Editor-In-Chief

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All over the world, countries show their pride in history and culture through holidays. Some countries celebrate with festivals and others take to the streets in week-long festivities.

 

Songkran, Thailand

An elephant sprays water at tourists

Songkran is a buddhist festival celebrated in Thailand during each new year. Songkran can last from a few days up to a week in cities like Chiang Mai. It is considered the most important holiday and is also explored in Cambodia, Laos, Burma and among ethnic minorities in other countries. “Songkran” is derived from Sanskrit and means “Astrological Passage”. This holiday marks the end of April- Thailand’s hottest month. To celebrate, Buddhists decorate temples with sand stupas in honour of the Buddha. The Thai capital closes it’s streets for a few days for the festival, where thousands of people run in the streets to spray water in an endless water-pistol fight.

 

La Quema del Diablo, Guatemala

A cross overlooking Antigua, Guatemala

La Quema del Diablo, or “Burning the Devil”, is an annual tradition held December 7th. At exactly 6:00 p.m, families build bonfires outside of their homes and burn effigy of Satan. This way, Guatemalans cleanse their homes from the devil and evil spirits. This is a symbol of purification for the Virgin Mary. After the devil is burned, Virgin Mary is free from evil and the Christmas holidays officially start. Many street vendors will sell devil pinatas and firecrackers. In some cities such as Antigua, a three story tall devil statue is burned at the city square, where thousands of people gather to partake in this tradition. La Quema del Diablo is also a holiday of getting rid of the bad, and starting the year anew from the ashes.

 

Dita e Nënë Terezës, Albania

Mother Teresa holding the peace torch

In the country of Albania, Dita e Nënë Terezës or “Mother Teresa Day” is a public holiday held every October 19th. Mother Teresa is a source of pride for the country, as she is a native Albanian. “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun,” (Mother Teresa). This holiday honors Mother Teresa and her legacy by taking the day off. Many Albanians attend mass and pray novenas, (a form of worship consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days). In 2010, the country named it “The Year of Mother Teresa” to mark the 100th anniversary of her birth. The international airport, the main hospital and the second biggest public square in Tirana (Albania’s capital) are named after her.

 

La Befana, Italy

La Befana sewn onto a stocking

Befana, also known as the ‘giver of gifts’, is an Italian character similar to Santa Claus. She is an ugly, yet kind old witch who visits the homes of children to deliver gifts. On the eve of Epiphany (January 5th), families leave plates of regional cuisine- usually broccoli with sausage and wine- outside. Befana flies by broomstick and enters houses by chimney to deliver toys, clothing, and candy to well-behaved children for the morning of January 6th.

 

National Melon Day- Turkmenistan

A Turkestan sells melons in Turkmenistan

 Every second Sunday of August, the people of Turkmenistan gather to celebrate Melon Day. Fairs and street vendors decorate the Ashgabat streets with mountains of melons and gourds. There are many competitions and games, and music is played and folk singers tell ancient stories about melons. Throughout history, traders would trade melons for gold. It was a popular belief that melons were a divine food, giving vital energy and extended life. Melon was especially popular in royal occasions. This holiday is a very important part of Turkmenistan history and culture and was named an official national holiday in 1994.

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Holidays Celebrated Around the World