7 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays with a Cultural Twist!

by Mahogany WaldonDecember 1, 2017

Everyone loves the holiday season. The weather is cold and crisp and there’s a sense of love and happiness in the air. Most people enjoy getting together with family to express their gratitude for their loved ones, while others prefer to spend time giving back to those in need. However you celebrate the holidays, America is a melting pot of traditional and non-traditional celebrations. Does your family gather around the tree and open presents on Christmas day? What about your neighborhood? Does your community host an annual celebration around the holidays?

For most Americans, holiday celebrations come a dime a dozen. From city to city, most celebrations have similar roots and are celebrated quite the same. We’ve compiled a list to give you a new take on your next holiday celebration!

Noche Buena: Miami, Florida

Noche Buena is a widely celebrated holiday tradition that is embraced by most Spanish-influenced cultures. Although it’s typically celebrated by Puerto Ricans, Filipinos, and Central Americans, Miami is where a lot of Cubans practice the holiday as well. Noche Buena is held annually on Christmas Eve. It consists of a huge traditional dinner with all the fixins’! Ever had roasted pork belly or lechón? Sounds delectable, doesn’t it? Other Noche Buena favorites include tostones (fried plantain), yuca, fried beans and rice, and rice pudding or rum cake for dessert. Also, no celebration is complete without coquito! This concoction of evaporated milk, rum, spices, and coconut is a tropical take on traditional holiday eggnog. Although coquito is a Puerto Rican staple, it’s common for it to be served with scoops of coconut ice cream in Cuba. ¡Es muy delicioso!

Kwanzaa: Los Angeles, California

This seven day holiday starts on December 26th and was founded as a celebration of African-American heritage and culture. There are principles and symbols included in each day of Kwanzaa called Nguzo Saba. The principles include umoja (unity), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), imani (faith), and more. Kwanzaa celebrations include plays, programs, dancing, singing, and the exchange of gifts. California is home to some of the nation’s largest Kwanzaa celebrations. Although traditionally there are no specific Kwanzaa food staples, many who celebrate the holiday enjoy African-inspired fare including seasoned black-eyed peas (a symbol of prosperity), West African groundnut stew, Ghanaian or Nigerian jollof rice and sweet potato pie.
A woman lights a candelabra celebrating Kwanzaa.

Hanukkah: Brooklyn, New York

Hanukkah is the Jewish “Celebration of Lights.” This eight-day celebration commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. Hanukkah is celebrated with days of food, dreidel spinning, synagogue services, and more. This year, Hanukkah begins on December 12th. The menorah is also lit for the eight days of Hanukkah, symbolizing a centuries-old tradition. Some Hanukkah food staples are potato latkes, doughnuts, and brisket; as well as cookies, cakes, pies, and other sweet treats.
A family is lighting a candle for the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

Epiphany or Three Kings Day: Bronx, New York

Epiphany or Three Kings Day is a celebration of the Three Wise Men. This holiday celebration is usually celebrated by Spanish-influenced cultures. Three Kings Day takes place on January 6th, and the celebration includes a cake similar to the Mardi Gras staple “King Cake.” The cake is a sweet roll topped with fruit. A toy baby is placed inside, and if your piece contains the baby, a tamale dinner will be held at your house on February 2nd for Dia de la Candelaria (otherwise known as Candlemas in English). Dia De la Candelaria is a mainly a religious celebration. Other food staples include pozole, tamales, hot fruit punches, and Mexican hot chocolate.
Image of roscon de reyes cake typically eaten on Three King's Day. This ring shaped pastry is topped with fruit and nuts.

Ōmisoka: Honolulu, Hawaii

This Japanese holiday takes place on New Year’s Eve. This tradition is celebrated by writing nengajo, or New Year’s cards, to friends and family, sending gifts, having parties, and making homemade rice cakes. Many who celebrate Ōmisoka take great pride in decorating their homes for the holiday and for the New Year. Ōmisoka food staples include soup with rice cakes (zôni), curried processed seafood (kamaboko), vegetables, and ramen.
A parade during an Omisoka festival is led down a street.

Saturnalia: Chicago, Illinois

Saturnalia is a pagan celebration that commemorates the winter solstice. Its ancient Roman roots pay homage to Saturn who is believed to be the “God of Time.” During the celebration, people get together to have elaborate parties in which they drink, eat, and give gifts. Saturnalia food traditions include pork, lamb, breads, cakes, and seasonal harvested vegetables. The celebration starts mid-December.
Men dressed as Roman soldiers celebrate at a Saturnalia festival.

Saint Lucia’s Day: Des Moines, Iowa

Parents, are you ready to be catered to by your kids? Saint Lucia’s Day is mostly celebrated in Sweden, but that doesn’t have to stop you from embracing the tradition. It is in honor of Saint Lucy, who according to the third-century legend, brought food and aid to Christians. In today’s society, young girls dress in white with a crown of candles and serve their parents’ breakfast. Saint Lucia’s Day food staples include Swedish meatballs, Lucia buns, coffee, cookies, wine, teas, and cheese and fruit danishes. Those under the Evangelical-Lutheran faith also take a procession of children dressed as Saint Lucy through towns and serve food to the elderly in retirement and nursing homes, sick people in the hospital, and more. The holiday is celebrated on December 13th.
A little girl is photographed with a traditional St. Lucia's Day crown and a tray of Swedish treats.
Any of these cultural celebrations would be a great addition to your home’s holiday cheer! For new homebuyers, starting a new tradition can put the perfect stamp on making your new house a home. Need to find your dream house? We can help with that! Be sure to tell us how you celebrate the holidays in the comments below!

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About The Author
Mahogany Waldon
Mahogany is a Content Marketing Coordinator for Homes.com. In her spare time, Mahogany enjoys reading, writing poetry, blogging, traveling, and loves a good southern idiom. Mahogany is also a certified Reiki practitioner and enjoys all things supernatural.