Winter Celebrations in Different Cultures – How Parents Make It Happen


“🎵 It’s the hap-happiest time of the year! 🎵”. The holidays, brought to you by parents. Whether its Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other winter celebration, they all have one thing in common: family (whatever that may look like for you).

So, here’s a shout-out to all you parents out there working your butts off to make this Holiday season special for your little ones. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving us happy memories over the holidays. When I became a parent, I realized that all the Christmas magic I felt as a kid was thanks to my parents.

How my childhood Filipino / French-Canadian household celebrated the holidays

Growing up as a kid in Vancouver, BC, I remember opening a present every hour leading up to midnight on Christmas Eve. We were supposed to wait until midnight, but we soon learned that if we whined enough, we could get this hourly adjustment to the rules. Looking back, mom and dad probably agreed to this so easily because it would let them get the night going earlier. There’s always rhyme and reason when it comes to parents’ decisions. Especially when they’re playing reverse psychology on their kids.

My dad, a French Canadian, would make meat pies that we ate on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, we would have a turkey feast with my titas (Filipina aunties). My mom would always tell stories of back home in the Philippines that were full of colourful lights and bright stars hung on your front door. And of course, there were Christmas carols. My parents played a cassette tape on loop (yes, cassettes, those things before there were CDs, which were those things before there were MP3’s, which were those things before there was streaming 😳). The A-side had Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas and the B-side had various Christmas classics like Perry Como’s rendition of Winter Wonderland.

That cassette playing on loop when I was a kid was faaaaar less repetitive than the two songs my two-year-old insisted I stream on loop last year. Yes, only two songs, Feliz Navidad and Jingle Bells, over and over and over again. At least we listened to three versions of Jingle Bells: English, French and Spanish.

How my Colombian / Chilean / Filipino / French-Canadian household celebrates the holidays

Since we’ve lived in Toronto for almost a decade now, the tradition for us has been to spend December 24 in Montreal with my wife’s family celebrating “Noche buena”, literally “the good night”, because let’s be honest, Latinos know how to celebrate. Especially on Noche buena. In my wife’s family, this night consists of filling one home’s living room with several homes’ families, singing, opening presents, and eating a variety of delicious foods including a chicken soup called 'Ajiaco Bogotano', cheesy donut balls called 'Buñuelos', empanadas and much more.

The morning of the 25th, we drive back to have Christmas dinner with my family that usually consists of a turkey feast followed by opening presents. Yes, our tradition involves a lot of eating and a lot of driving.

This past Christmas in 2020 however was the first time we didn’t travel to visit with family. Although my wife and I didn’t get to see our parents, we made the best of it and made sure it was a great one for our daughter. We started a new tradition and brought our mattress down to the living room and watched a Christmas movie together, something my wife has fond memories doing with her family on weekends. Our daughter loved it.

This is just our way of celebrating the holidays, but Canada is so multicultural that you will find a thousand different ways of celebrating the holidays in our country.


Another celebration that happens in the winter is Hannukah. Here’s a summary of the celebration from

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers and fried foods.

The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple … Also spelled Hanukkah (or variations of that spelling), the Hebrew word is actually pronounced with a guttural, “kh” sound, kha-nu-kah, not tcha-new-kah.

Chanukah begins on the eve of Kislev 25 and continues for eight days. On the civil calendar, it generally coincides with the month of December. Chanukah 2021 runs from Nov. 28-Dec. 6

I can only surmise that for children, Hannukah is just as magical as the holidays were for me growing up. And who made this all possible? Parents. Imagine yourself as a kid surrounded by your family on a dark night learning how to light the menorah. It must be a great feeling.


I’m always intrigued when I learn of others’ celebrations. CBC Kids explains the wintertime celebration of Kwanzaa:

The celebration of Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. It’s a time for people of African heritage to celebrate their culture and its history.

Kwanzaa lasts seven days, taking place from December 26th to January 1st.

The celebration was founded in 1966 in the United States, and Canada began to celebrate it in 1993. The word kwanzaa comes from the Swahili language and means “first fruits.”

An important tradition in Kwanzaa has to do with a candle holder called the kinara.

It holds seven candles, including three red ones, three green ones and a single black candle.

Each day during Kwanzaa, one candle is lit, so that all of them will be burning brightly come the seventh day.

Every candle represents a different value of African culture. They are:

    • unity — umoja (say “oo-MO-jah”)
    • self-determination — kujichagulia (say “koo-GEE-cha-GOO-leeya”)
    • community work and responsibility — ujima (say “OO-GEE-mah”)
    • building and supporting businesses within the community — ujamaa (say “oo-JAH-mah”)
    • having purpose — nia (say “Nee-yah”)
    • creativity — kuumba (say “koo-OOM-bah”)
    • faith — imani (say “ee-MAH-nee”)

Each value is discussed by families during Kwanzaa, as the candles are lit.

Other traditions of Kwanzaa include a feast called karamu on December 31st and an exchange of gifts known as zawadi on January 1st. The fact that a discussion of seven different values of African culture is central to the celebration is perfect. A transfer of knowledge from parents to children.

If you want your kids to learn more about other cultures over the holidays, here’s a cool educational site about winter celebrations from National Geographic Kids with short articles and games.

There are no holidays without parents

For centuries parents have been teaching their little ones about culture in the most fun and magical ways possible during winter celebrations. Kudos parents. What would the holidays be without you?


Happy Holidays to all! ❄⛄🎄🎅🏻🤶🏻😀

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