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Festive season – holidays that aren’t Christmas

We’re heading into the festive season, so it is time to dust off the Santa hats and paper lanterns and get ready to party. We know every family celebrates differently at this time of year. From Christmas and Hanukkah to Lunar New Year, check out the upcoming festivals, holidays and special events soon to unfold in homes around Australia.

Christmas stress

Christmas and beyond – gear up that festive spirit Credit: Shutterstock

Thanksgiving – 28th November

With Halloween out of the way, the next North American holiday in the festive season calendar is Thanksgiving. All about family and gratitude, Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November. The tradition comes from the Plymouth pilgrims who wanted to give thanks for the new harvest. It isn’t commonly celebrated in Australia, except on Norfolk Island. Turkey, apple cider and pumpkin pie are fixtures on the special day.

Christmas – 25th December annually

Christmas marks the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, although the date is believed to come from old Germanic winter solstice festival. In Australia, Christmas is typically accompanied by prawns, a barbecue and pavlova, as well as gift-giving, carol-singing, Christmas lights and decorations. Christmas and Boxing Day (26th December) are both public holidays around Australia. So, even if your family doesn’t celebrate Christmas, you can still enjoy the chance to relax as a family. Read more about Christmas events and Christmas lights around Australia.

Events like the Adelaide Christmas Pageant add a sprinkle of community spirit. Credit: Shutterstock

The Hindu festival of Pancha Ganapati coincides with Christmas. Orthodox Christmas occurs on January 7th.

Hanukkah – 22nd December to 30th December, 2020

The Jewish Festival of Lights is a commemoration of the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem. On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, families light one candle on a special menorah called a hanukkiyah. Although rituals vary around the world and across communities, families will often sing songs, give gifts, play games with a dreidel or spinning top and eat jelly doughnuts and other fried treats.

New Year – 1st January annually

You may be familiar with the hugely famous ball-drop that occurs in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. But Australia has just as much to offer to ring in the start of the new Gregorian calendar year. Most Aussie capital cities will have a fireworks display at 9pm and midnight. The most famous is over Sydney Harbour. If you aren’t up for wrestling the crowds, you can watch on television. Read more here on how and where to enjoy New Year’s Eve in Australia. 

Sydney puts on a fireworks show like no other for New Year’s Credit: Shutterstock/mroz

Lunar New Year – 25th January, 2020

Welcome the Year of the Rat with street festivals, fireworks and lion and dragon dances around Australia. Sydney plays host to one of the biggest celebrations of Chinese New Year outside Asia. Cheer on Dragon Boat races in Sydney’s Darling Harbour, watch korean drumming, Japanese dance and tai chi demos around Circular Quay and explore what’s on in Chatswood, Eastwood and Parramatta. Attend the Lantern Festival on Saturday, 8th February, to mark the end of the lunar celebrations. Perth and Melbourne also hold New Year fairs. Lunar New Year is not exclusive to China, but is recognised by many Asian countries who follow a lunar calendar. Vietnamese communities, for example, celebrate the Tet Festival.

Bodhi Day –

Dependent on the lunar calendar, this festival commemorates Buddha reaching nirvana. A two-day festival will run in Melbourne’s Fed Square from 16th to 17th May, 2020. There will be dragon boat racing, Bodhi tree art, an animal sanctuary, vegetarian food fair and kids’ activities. Brisbane hosts a Buddha Birthday Festival, with a tree blessing at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.

Read more for festive season spirit:

10 New Year Celebrations from around the world

Best destinations for White Christmas

How to have a stress-free Christmas

How to make the most of public holidays with your family

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