Celebrate the Holidays with Décor From Around the World

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Canadians celebrate the holiday season with décor inspired by cultures around the world.

Novelist Edith Wharton famously wrote, “There are two ways to spread the light: One is to be the candle, the other is to be the mirror.” And because there are so many diverse cultures in Canada, many enjoy incorporating festive traditions from other countries into their holiday décor. As we celebrate the sun’s return throughout the winter, here’s the chance to weave vibrant colours and textures from around the world into your home this season.

Diwali, October 27, 2019

Celebrating light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil, this five-day Hindu festival showcases homes and businesses decorated with diyas – small clay oil lamps or candle holders – along with paper chains and flower garlands. Coloured powder or chalk designs adorn doorsteps for good luck and windows and doors are left open so Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, can enter.

Bodhi Day, December 8, 2019

This Buddhist celebration of enlightenment commemorates the exact moment of Buddha’s awakening under the peepal – now called Bodhi – tree. This day of remembrance often includes meditation and chanting and people stringing multi-coloured beads and lights around a ficus tree, symbolizing the varied paths to Nirvana.

St. Lucia’s Day, December 13, 2019

Many cultures mark the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year – with joyful ceremonies and nature-inspired decorations. For St. Lucia’s Day, an ancient Scandinavian festival honouring a third-century saint, girls dress up in white gowns with red sashes, and wear crowns of green leaves studded with lighted candles. On the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, December 13 is National Day. Lights are hung throughout the nation while artists decorate lanterns for competitions.

Las Posadas, December 16–December 24, 2019

During this nine-day festival observed mostly in Mexico and Central America, the poinsettia takes centre stage. Its nine leaves represent Joseph and Mary’s nine-day journey to Bethlehem. Crafty families create a poinsettia with handprints on red paper, gluing them together to make nine-leaf flowers. 

Hanukkah, December 22–December 30, 2019

Throughout this Jewish Festival of Lights, the menorah is lit each evening to commemorate the small amount of oil that lasted eight days. During this holiday, people traditionally decorate with blue, white and silver stars of David while children play with dreidels – a four-sided spinning toy, collect “gelt” foil-wrapped chocolate coins, and eat potato latkes. 

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, December 24-25, 2019

For Christmas, people typically decorate real or fake fir trees with colourful lights, tinsel and treasured ornaments. Stockings stuffed with small gifts and toys are hung up on fireplace mantels, while wrapped presents are piled under the tree. In some parts of Europe, “star singers” go caroling while walking behind a large star affixed to a pole. In the Ukraine, tables are decorated with stalks of wheat. Not everyone celebrates Christmas Day on December 25th. Many Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on or near January 7th, as their churches follow the Julian calendar, one that predates the Gergorian calendar.

Kwanzaa, December 26, 2019

Celebrating African heritage and culture, Kwanzaa – which means “first fruits” in Swahili – is a seven-day holiday honouring the harvest. Each night, children light a candle holder called a kinara while discussing the seven African principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Families decorate their homes with red, green and black décor, including bright, colourful beads, fruit and vegetables. 

Chinese New Year, January 25 – February 8, 2020

Marking the end of winter and start of spring, this 15-day holiday begins with the New Moon. People decorate their homes with red paper cut-outs and lanterns and children usually receive “good luck” money or candy coins stuffed into red envelopes. The colour gold is associated with wealth, while red is considered especially lucky.

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