When it comes to the holiday season, there are a bunch of similar traditions around the world. Not all traditions are the same, though. For instance, if you love having a large turkey dinner with all the fixings to celebrate holidays, you may realize that this isn’t possible in other parts around the globe.
Why? A ton of reasons! Not all countries observe the same holidays or even observe the same holidays in the same way. And as for turkeys? They aren’t as common as you think either!
So, what does the rest of the world eat to celebrate holidays? Let’s look at what the traditional turkey meals may look like during holidays depending on your location.
Different Holidays Around the World
Here is a quick roundup of different holidays around the world and what they mean to their parent countries!
Thanksgiving in Liberia
Though Thanksgiving is considered an American holiday, other nations have their own reasons to be thankful and therefore their own forms of Thanksgiving festivals. For example, Thanksgiving is celebrated in the West African nation of Liberia. That’s because Americans helped to colonize the country in the 19th Century.
If you’re wondering what Liberians eat on Thanksgiving, one thing is sure you’re not going to find a lot of turkeys over there. Often, it’s not on their holiday meal menu.
Instead of enjoying turkey and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving Day, Liberians prefer having jollof rice, chicken, green bean casserole, puddings, and other typical food from West Africa. Also, mashed potatoes are usually replaced by mashed cassava.
Of course, if you have Tapioca pudding with your Thanksgiving meal, you will have cassava too.
Labor Thanksgiving in Japan
Celebrated every year on the 23rd of November, Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in Japan. In Japanese, it is called ‘Kinro Kansha no Hi,’ which means Labor Thanksgiving Day.
Unlike America, Thanksgiving is celebrated as a national public holiday to honor the hard work of laborers, rather than glossing over the Settlers’ treatment of Native Americans.
Also, among the Japanese, Thanksgiving is more about the attitude toward holidays than the food they eat. It is all about appreciating workers who labor daily to make the nation better and more productive.
The day is usually celebrated with the family by planning a trip to an amusement park or green space, followed by a modest dinner. You won’t find many people sitting down to a massive feast with all the trimmings.
Thanksgiving dinners in Japan are not as big as in the US, and the Japanese typically don’t have turkey on that day. Cooking a turkey in Japan is a challenge as one needs a large convection oven (which most people don’t own).
But, the Japanese do still have a traditional meal on that day which includes noodles, soups, rice, chicken, fish, and tea. Sushi is another common item you will see on the table.
Moreover, if you’re in Japan and want to have a traditional US Thanksgiving meal, you may visit American-friendly restaurants. But remember, you will have to pay a steep price; the cheapest one could be ¥6,000 for a plate of turkey!
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Japan
Hanukkah in Israel
Also known as Hanukkah or Chanukkah or festival of lights, this festival is celebrated for eight days by the Jewish people worldwide. This holy week is considered the most beloved Jewish holiday.
This eight-day Jewish celebration marks the recovery of Jerusalem and the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. As per the Hebrew calendar, the celebration begins on the 25th day of Kislev, which occurs any time between late November to December. It is marked by lighting one candle on a 9-branch menorah every day for eight nights.
Instead of turkey meals, the Jewish people serve their traditional Hanukkah meals, including savory meats, fried foods, and sweet desserts.
From luscious potato latkes to delicious doughnuts to brisket to kugel, a wide variety of food is eaten during this eight-day cultural celebration.
Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Scotland
Hogmanay is the traditional name for New Year’s Eve in Scotland. NYE is one of the most popular holidays in Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital is a top spot for celebrating the end of December and the beginning of January.
The way westerners celebrate New Year’s Eve is thanks largely to the Scots way of celebrating the occasion. Scottish New Year’s night traditions are staying up and witnessing fireworks until the clock strikes midnight to the new year, dancing the night away, first footing, and singing Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne.
Though some people prefer celebrating this evening in their homes or at house parties, stepping out in the streets of Edinburgh on the last day of the year gives a truly magical feeling.
It is also celebrated by gift-giving and trying out a wide variety of food and copious amounts of alcohol!
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The Muslim Celebrations of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr
Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr are both Islamic festivals celebrated by Muslims across the globe.
Also known as The Holy Month of Fasting, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The festival is much more than fasting; it is about history, culture, faith, prayers, and charity. The tradition of Ramadan is that after the sunset prayers, Muslim people gather in mosques or their homes to end their fast with a delicious meal.
This meal is called iftar, often shared with extended families and friends. It usually begins with dates and is followed by grains, nuts, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
On the other hand, Eid al-Fitr is the end of Ramadan. It is also called the Festival of Breaking the Fast. It is usually celebrated during the start of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Muslim calendar. This is when families get together to pray for their well-being, togetherness, and success.
The traditions of Eid al-Fitr are wearing new clothes, giving Zakat to the poor, distributing sweets & gifts (called Eidi), and eating a variety of traditional food.
Every Muslim house hosts feasts which include countless dishes, including pulao, biryani, saalan, kebabs, nihari, kofte, and haleem. Moreover, sheet korma, phirni, shahi tukda, and seviyan are the big draws of this festival!
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Diwali in India
Also called Dipawali or Festival of Lights, Diwali is India’s most important holiday of the year. This Hindu festival is famous for celebrating the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance.
Diwali is usually celebrated for five days, mainly among Indians, and involves shopping, home decoration, worship ceremonies, gift-giving, fireworks, and feasts.
The traditions of this festival include wearing new clothes, buying gold, lighting oil lamps or candles in homes, and worshiping the Goddess Laxmi. However, in India, Diwali traditions vary from one state to another.
Though many dishes are eaten on Diwali, some of the more traditional dishes are halwa, gulab jamun, rasgulla, soan papri, gujiya, rice kheer, samosa, aloo bonda, puri, idli, biryani, lentils, and vegetables.
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Halloween Around the World
Halloween is another well-known holiday that is celebrated on 31st October each year. The belief is that the spirits from the other world visit the earth every year on this day. Therefore, people dress in scary costumes and light bonfires to keep ghosts away.
Though Halloween is gaining popularity worldwide, some countries still do not celebrate this holiday, for example, Russia.
Also, though different countries have different means for the day, the traditions of the United States, The UK and Ireland, and Canada are pretty much the same. These traditions involve carving pumpkins, costume parties, games, pranks, trick-or-treating, telling haunted stories, and watching horror movies.
If we talk about Halloween food, pumpkin pie is the typical dish eaten in North America to celebrate this day. Some traditional Halloween food ideas include candy & caramel apples, caramel corn, candy corn, apple bread, pumpkin bread, milk duds, chicken pumpkin, and Halloween pancakes. And candy. Lots and lots of candy.
Overall, preparing and having traditional Halloween food with family and friends is exciting to celebrate this holiday.
Easter Across the Globe
Easter is one of the most significant occasions in the Christian calendar. The formerly Pagan holiday commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A famous festival among Christians, the celebration is usually marked by feasts, Easter Bunny, and Easter Eggs.
When it comes to Easter food traditions, it is essential to gift Easter Eggs and eat hot cross buns. Also, ranging from savory soups to sweet desserts, Easter meals vary worldwide. For example, Spanish people eat donut-like desserts named rosquillas, and people in the UK have simnel cake to celebrate the day.
Beyond that, some traditional Easter foods enjoyed worldwide include roasted lamb, white borscht soup, chałka, Neapolitan grain pie, Italian Pizzelle, cepelinai, tsoureki, and spanakopita.
No matter what, the traditional Easter food is incomplete without lamb on the list.
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All Saints’ Day in France
All Saints’ Day is one of the biggest holidays in France, celebrated on November 1 every year. Also known as La Toussaint in France, the day is about families gathering to honor their dearly departed by placing flowers on their graves, followed by a massive lunch at home.
As the All Saints’ Day holiday falls during school holidays, it gives an excellent chance for extended families to reunite as a part of a short vacation.
French people usually eat lamb for lunch on this day. However, at midnight, they often prefer having a supper consisting of pancakes, black grain, bacon, and cider to honor the dead.
If you happen to be in France around this time and looking for a delicious holiday meal, you’re in for a treat.
You can approach the holiday meal in different ways. For example, you could enjoy a rustic, home-style menu that would include lamb or maybe turkey. That’s right – turkey is readily available in France as the country is a leading producer of turkey in Europe.
The stuffing is prepared with the organs of the turkey, seasonal vegetables, and a rich wine-based sauce to accompany the meat.
If you prefer something upscale, that would also be readily available throughout the country. Imagine a beautifully cooked turkey leg or moist slices of turkey breast, accompanied by a wine-infused brown gravy and sides of your preference.
Many dining establishments in France offer their unique take on classic holiday meals. You will find a wide variety of mouthwatering dishes but be ready to pay a steep price for these options – at least 40 Euros per person.
January Christmas in Russia
Celebrated on the 7th of January, Christmas has become a national holiday in Russia since 1992. The date is different from the US and Canada as the Russian Orthodox Church follows the ancient ‘Julian’ calendar for religious celebration days.
Russians usually celebrate Christmas with their families and friends by decorating Christmas trees, preparing feasts, and exchanging gifts.
Russia has Orthodox roots, which means many families focus on Orthodox faith traditions when it comes to holiday food. Since fasting is common during the Advent season among Russians, many people do not prefer eating meat.
Not only nonveg but alcohol is often prohibited as well, though some families take red wine as an exception. Pickled foods and mushroom soups are pretty standard.
Additionally, some families allow adding fish to their holiday meal menus. For example, a battered fish dish, such as a kulebyaka, may be served. This is quite similar to a salmon turnover. Other regular items on the menu include potatoes, dumplings, and kidney beans. You might also find kutya, a boiled wheat & honey dish, on the table.
See Related: Christmas Traditions in Germany
Boxing Day across the Commonwealth
Boxing Day became an official holiday in 1871. Boxing Day is a national holiday in the United Kingdom. It is celebrated on 26th December, the day after Christmas Day.
Though the holiday has become part of many countries’ calendars (particularly Commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada, and New Zealand) it is commonly linked to the United Kingdom.
Initially, the day was celebrated as a 2nd Christmas day for workers and the less fortunate. Rich households would distribute money and box up hand-me-down gifts for their servants and the needy. But now, the day has evolved in multiple ways. It is primarily recognized as a shopping holiday in most countries.
In the UK, a few traditions of the day include shopping, playing games (for example, football and horse racing), and eating Christmas leftovers like turkey sandwiches and Bubble & Squeak. When it comes to eating, leftovers are a significant element of the day.
Also, on this day, stores offer great sale offers in the UK, similar to Black Friday in the United States after Thanksgiving.
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Saint Patrick’s Day in Ireland
Celebrated on 17th March every year, St Patrick’s Day is a massive celebration of Irish culture. It’s a national holiday in Ireland.
St Patrick’s Day is particularly about remembering Saint Patrick, one of Ireland’s patron saints. Paddy emigrated from England to Ireland and ministered to Christianity to the Irish during the 5th Century. Supposedly he got rid of all the snakes in Ireland too!
It’s also celebrated in other countries with large Irish populations, including the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and even countries like Japan, and Singapore.
Up until recently, the day was celebrated with total modesty in Ireland, with church services, Irish dancing, and traditional Irish food and drink. Thanks to the “enthusiasm” in which the day is celebrated in the US, (think green-themed parties, lively parades, drinking to excess, and civil disorder) this once quiet holiday is turning into an excuse to drink and fight all over the world.
The most common symbol used on this day is the shamrock. This leaf of the cover plant is a sign of the Holy Trinity. Traditional Irish foods consumed on the day, include stout bread, Irish stew, corned beef & cabbage, colcannon, potato soup, and Irish cream chocolate mousse cake.
Celebration of Bodhi Day Among Buddhists
Bodhi Day is the day to celebrate the enlightenment of Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Though the day is celebrated on different dates in different countries, most Buddhists celebrate it on the 8th of December.
People cherish this enlightening day in several ways. Many Buddhists celebrate it in a quiet, calm, and peaceful manner.
Some Buddhist people decorate their homes with multi-colored lights, which symbolize different pathways to enlightenment.
You will also find a fig tree in most Buddhist homes. They add colorful lights, beads, and three shiny ornaments to these trees. These ornaments represent the three jewels – the Sangha, the Dharma, and the Buddha.
Also, a meal of milk and rice is the most common dish on this religious holiday. It is believed that this was the first meal that the Buddha received from the Sujata after his awakening.
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Mardi Gras in New Orleans
Also called Shrove Tuesday and Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gas (literally Fat Tuesday) is the day before Ash Wednesday. It is a festive celebration worldwide. The day marks the beginning of the Christian Lent season that leads up to Easter. It is a moveable holiday that can fall in either February or March.
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is all about excitement, music, picnics, and parades. The traditional colors people usually wear on this day are gold, purple, and green. The gold represents power, purple represents justice, and the green represents faith.
Some of the most common traditions of this holiday are parades, masks, beads, and king cake. People wear colorful costumes, decorate them with beads, and put on Mardi Gras masks to celebrate the festivities and make the most of that time.
Also, when it comes to traditional food to celebrate Mardi Gras, some common names are king cake, dirty rice, crawfish étouffée, jambalaya, crawfish boil, and pancakes.
How Do You Celebrate Your Holidays?
As mentioned above, holidays are one of the best and simple ways to connect with loved ones, give back, and show your appreciation for others. They are all about celebrating the values that bring people from different communities together.
As we all know, holiday celebrations or traditions vary depending on the region and country. So, now the question is – how do you celebrate your holidays?
What other holidays do you celebrate? Do you infuse different cultures and dishes into your holiday menu? Do you enjoy ham instead of turkey? Do you put your own spin on the holiday meal with family recipes or spices?
Please share your holiday traditions and favorite holiday dishes in the comment section below.
Also, send turkey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the most celebrated holiday around the world?
Well, Christmas is the most celebrated and universally recognized holiday worldwide. The festival is celebrated on December 25th of every year in most countries. The traditions for this special day vary from one country to another.
Is it necessary to celebrate holiday traditions?
YES, of course, unless you wanna be a humbug!
Holidays are essential for establishing a solid bond between families and communities. They give us a sense of stability, belonging, and a way to express our emotions and priorities. Not just this, but holidays keep us connected to our history and ancestors. They also give us a reason to reconnect with our extended families and long-lost friends.
Plus, everyone is just a little happier and a little nicer around a holiday.
Overall, holiday traditions are fun to learn about different cultures and languages worldwide. They play an irreplaceable role in uniting the world.
Why are traditions so important?
Traditions play a critical part in our lives. They bring families together and help us to reconnect with our old friends. Traditions provide human beings with a source of identity and a sense of comfort, belonging, safety, and security. They also reinforce different values such as integrity, togetherness, faith, freedom, good education, strong work ethic, and being selfless.
All in all, the best of all human traditions are the same everywhere you go; be good to one another.
On average, traditions can help us strengthen our bonds with different communities and realize that we are a part of something unique.
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