The winter season is special to all of us in some way or the other, whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or not at all.
Spending time with family, getting and giving presents, putting out stockings, making cookies, visiting Santa, lighting candles, playing dreidels, singing, dancing, drumming, and celebrating, in general, are just a few of the beloved traditions associated with these major holidays. But there are also dozens of lesser-known holidays celebrated in the winter around the world, the history behind and the traditions of three of which-Boxing Day, Saint Nicholas Day, and Three Kings’ Day-are further discussed below.
Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26, the day after Christmas, and although it was originally started and is still celebrated in the United Kingdom, the holiday has expanded to places like Australia and New Zealand, places that were once under British rule. While traditions of this holiday may seem like they should be a series of physical sporting matches, the history behind Boxing Day is much kinder, and gentler.
Christmas “boxes” filled with leftover food, gifts, and change used to be given from the wealthier aristocratic families to their servants, and Boxing Day still revolves around charity and generosity. The servants also received the day off, and this continues for all those who recognize the holiday. Boxing Day is a blend between helping those who are less fortunate and enjoying a day to relax and take time off from the busy, sometimes stressful, holiday season.
Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas Day originated in and is celebrated in European countries such as Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and Ukraine, and has made its way all over the world, including in the United States. It is celebrated from the night of December 5 to the morning of December 6 and involves Saint Nicholas bringing presents or coal-based on children’s’ behavior throughout the year.
In some European countries, Saint Nicholas will leave these objects underneath the pillows of children, while in the United States today, the items are left in stockings, or in shoes that are placed in the foyer. Saint Nicholas Day spreads the Christmas cheer throughout the entire month of December and has bloomed into many different variations depending on where it is celebrated in the world.
Three Kings’ Day
The three Kings are well known in the Christian religion as some of Baby Jesus’ first visitors, bringing him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all three symbolic of parts of Jesus’ future destiny. Christians in Spain and Latin American countries celebrate Three Kings’ Day on January 6 following Christmas, and they continue the tradition of receiving special gifts, such as toys, trinkets, or candy. Like some who celebrate Saint Nicholas Day do, children who participate in Three Kings’ Day leave their shoes out in the foyer and wait for presents.
There are traditional foods that are prepared in celebration of the holiday, such as King’s Bread, which is known for its bright colors and hidden figure of Jesus in the middle, and family dinners and parades, as well. Three Kings’ Day continues the joy and happiness of the holiday season into January. The holiday season is often called “the most wonderful time of the year”, and people all around the world have their own traditions and ways of celebrating this magical season.
There are a few major holidays that billions of people take part in, but also several lesser-known winter holidays with history and traditions of their own, including Boxing Day, Saint Nicholas Day, and Three Kings’ Day.