Japanese new year celebration - Ohshogatsu
In Japan, the most important holiday is the celebration of the new year from Dec. 31 to Jan. 3 called ohshogatsu; this is the equivalent of Thanksgiving and Christmas combined. On the eve of the new year, temple bells ring 108 times: 8 times to ring out the old year and 100 times to usher in the new year. There are also a number of rituals surrounding food such as eating soba (buckwheat noodles) to symbolize longevity (length of noodle), mochi (rice cake) soup called ozoni as a wish for future prosperity, and osechi ryori, which are specific dishes with various good meanings for the new year.
Native American solstice celebration — Soyal
Soyal is a traditional solstice celebration which is held by the Hopi Indians on the day and night of the winter solstice. The Soyal Ceremony begins on the shortest day of the year, and symbolizes the second phase of Creation at the Dawn of Life. Its prayers and rituals implement a plan of life for the coming year, ceremonially turning back the sun toward its summer path. During the longest ceremony on the ceremonial cycle, lasting up to 16 days, sacred rituals are performed in underground chambers called kivas. Many ceremonies involve dancing and singing; the kachinas may even bring gifts to the children. At Soyal time elders pass down stories to children, teaching pivotal lessons like respecting others. The Hopi, The Peaceful Ones (Hopitu Shinumu), believe everything that will occur during the year is arranged at Soyal.
Mexico’s Christmas celebration — Las Posadas
Las Posadas, celebrated throughout Mexico and Central America, is Spanish for “The Inns.” It honors the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of lodging. During each night of this nine-day festival, a small child dressed as an angel leads a procession through towns and cities. Children wear gold robes and carry candles along with pictures of Mary and Joseph. Adults follow, many of them playing music, as they stop at houses to ask for lodging. When they are refused lodging per the original story, they read Bible passages and sing Christmas carols. Following the procession, mass is held each night, followed by the breaking of piñata, usually shaped like a star in honor of the one that led the three wise men to Jesus’ birth site.