As the holidays were approaching I tried to be a conscience consumer by purchasing fair trade or eco-friendly gifts for my friends and family. If I saw a cute winter hat or other gift at my local big box store, I strongly tried to resist the urge and impulse buying. And let me tell you, it is difficult! However, I knew I could be impacting more lives if I just remembered to look up a similar fair trade one online. All of this fair trade and holiday thoughts made me think of traveling and how do the other countries we buy from celebrate their holidays? So, I decided to look at a couple of countries that we work in to learn more about how their cultures celebrate this time of year. I have found that majority do celebrate U.S./Christian holidays such as Christmas and New Years, because each have a special or unique tradition whether it’s with their food, decorations, or how they celebrate.
Despite Rwanda’s history of the genocide, they have come a far way with an ever expanding economy. Due to genocide Rwanda’s community is determined to stay strong and together. The majority of the people in the community refer to themselves as Rwandans, without the difference of Tutsis and Hutus. This attitude is making Rwanda a very welcoming place to be for the holidays, where pride and joy are felt throughout the streets. Rwanda embodies more U.S./Christian holidays as time moves forward. Two of these holidays are Christmas and New Years. Rwandans who are accustomed to Christmas will exchange gifts. However, a typical Rwandan tradition for Christmas is a day full of relaxation, prayer, and goat brochettes (kebabs). There is also a traditional food of Isombe, which is mashed cassava leaves and green bananas cooked in tomato sauce. Sounds delicious to me! New Years is an extremely celebrated holiday in Rwanda. This is the holiday where everyone goes out to local restaurants, bars, and in the streets to celebrate as a community the joy of new, fresh, and positive beginnings!
Two articles I think were really interesting are below about Rwanda.
This was a cute blog entry about a restaurant, Heaven, in Rwanda and how their first New Years went.
This was found on Nicholas Kristof’s Opinion Page by Josh Ruxin who is the director of Rwanda Works. He describes how he feels that Rwanda has progressed 16 years after the genocide.
Christmas is also celebrated in India! However, instead of using just Christmas trees which are common in the U.S., banana and mango trees are decorated too. According to a few sites, clay lamps are lit and placed up high as well. This tradition is also carried over to their New Years celebration. Some typical Indian holiday cuisine consists of homemade ginger wine, pastries (such as Kulkul, Laadu, Nevryo, and Chaklyo), a pork dish called Vindaloo, rice with almonds and raisins, and a fruit cake dessert. Families usually cook the pastries in variety of pink and red hues. Also, some families carry on the tradition of a Christmas sweets/cakes (“Kuswaar”) exchange too!
India celebrates New Years, but is called Diwali, a Sanskrit word for row of lights. It’s a Hindu festival that lasts for five days that technically starts on the last day of the Hindu calendar of Vikram.
There is so much more left to be discovered and understood. I look forward to continuing to learn more about these cultures and others. I hope you will join me on my path to discovery. Please leave your stories below in the comments box. I hope to learn about your travel experiences or other amazing articles on other holiday traditions of other countries!
Hope you all have an amazing holiday season with your loved ones!
Written by Arielle Besyk