Winters have nothing been short of a carnival for the world all over throughout the ages. Whether it be the grand celebrations of Christmas or ushering in the New Year, appearance of winter special foods on the horizon, or even a whole lot of altogether distinctive winter feels, the cold brings with it also a certain charm. Crossing over from the more common customs of Christmas tress and New Year’s parties, here’s a look at some interesting traditions that makes for a cosier and warmer winter!
Iranians usher in winter with great fanfare and celebration. Every year the Asian country observes the winter solstice as Yalda or Shab-e Yalda that marks the onset of the 40 day winter period in the region. Families get together to celebrate, with poetry and feasts including special foods like pomegranates and nuts encompassing a 40 dish meal are indulged in until the longest night has passed. The victory of light over dark, yalda celebrations on the 22nd night of December continue unto the next morn when people welcome the morning sun and usher in the winter period known as the great cella.
Night of the Radishes
The state of Oaxca in Mexico has a rather unique winter tradition that translates into an annual fest called the Night of the Radishes. For three days since the 23rd of December, innumerable radishes are carved with figurines and exhibited in town, that draws huge crowds and creates a frenzy palpable in even the chills. A competitive event that sees prizes being awarded for the best carved radishes, this is sure one tradition that is delightfully diversified.
A New Year tradition in Hawaii, mochi pounding is a manifestation of a Japanese custom that has prevailed in the island for generations now. On every first day of the year, native Hawaiians gather around a large mortar called the usu and pound sweet sticky rice to make mochi, the traditional New Year sweetmeat. You can find mochi everywhere and eat it anyway you like but it is belief that the public pounding of the mochi brings good fortune and well being into the coming year. Sounds as comforting as it tastes!
Old Man Bayka
What is winter without Christmas and what is Christmas without gifts? Whether you are the one getting them or gifting them, presents encompass the yuletide spirit rather closely. This very essential tradition takes on a different form in Liberia where a personified antonym of Santa Claus is seen doing the winter rounds. Known as the Old Man Bayka or the Old Man Beggar, the unique figurine sports rags and a mask but retains Santa’s big belly. What Bayka however does is wander the streets of the city begging for gifts rather than giving them out!
Another tradition pertaining to the winter solstice stems from the Asian country of China which celebrates the Dongzhi festival. The last festival of the year, Dongzhi sees the Chinese people commemorating their ancestors with offerings like hell money and tang yuan. Tang yuans are stuffed glutinous rice balls and are served in a hot sweetened soup, relished throughout the winter therefrom. On what is essentially the gloomiest day of the year, Chinese people also feast on nuts and dumplings, rice cakes and rice with red beans after being done with all rituals and sacrifices directed to drive away the winter demons.