St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital treats children from all 50 states and from around the world. That means our patient families are from many cultures and celebrate holidays in different ways. We’ve asked the experts — our patients and their families — to share how they celebrate winter holidays, from Christmas in Ecuador to the New Year in Turkey. Get to know St. Jude families as they share their traditions with us.
Diwali is the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world. It’s a festival of new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness. Those who celebrate decorate and illuminate the inside and outside of their homes with lights, perform dances, light fireworks and partake in family meals. It’s observed every year in autumn, either in late October or November.
Having witnessed such testing times with our brave heart, Vakhyaat, with St. Jude emerging as the light at the end of the dark tunnel, this pretty much relates to us.
Sunny, father of St. Jude patient Vakhyaat, from India
Diwali is an auspicious celebration for us: victory of good over evil, positivity, homemade sweets, firecrackers.
We remember the Diwali we celebrated in St Jude in 2018, and we never felt that we were away from home. St Jude made the victory possible for us.
Amit, father of St. Jude patient Bella, from India
2. Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated in several countries. Its roots often tie back to giving thanks for the year’s harvest. Though it may not be called the same name worldwide, many countries have a traditional holiday celebrating a bountiful harvest. The event takes place on the fourth Thursday in November in the U.S., but the timing for other countries can differ. In the U.S., many people celebrate Thanksgiving by sharing a meal with family or friends (called Friendsgiving), attending city parades and watching popular sporting events.
I'm thankful for everything! I'm thankful for fuzzy blankets. I'm also thankful that I can live in a home with my family. And I'm thankful for coloring books.
St. Jude patient Claire, from the U.S.
3. Las Posadas
DECEMBER 16 – 24
Las Posadas is a celebration held in several Latin American countries that reminds families of the journey of Virgin Mary and Joseph of Nazareth to Bethlehem for the birth of baby Jesus. Families go from home to home with the figures of the Virgin Mary and Joseph, reliving the pilgrimage by singing songs. They pray and share special snacks such as "tortas" (bread with sausage), "atoles" (traditional beverages made of corn or masa) of various flavors, salads and traditionally, a "piñata" with candy is set up for the children.
Las Posadas for us means the representation of the journey that the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph made. The families try to relive that journey by carrying the Virgin Mary on a little wood board with a little straw roof from house to house and we sing. The family and neighbors sing when it's our turn, and if you receive us, you also receive other pilgrims.
We visit several homes, and then begin to pray and share snacks. This year, Las Posadas is going to be very special. We will be celebrating with Ian for the first time. We talked to him about it and he is very excited.
Carmen, grandmother of St. Jude patient Ian, from Mexico
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4. Christmas Eve & Christmas Day
DECEMBER 24 & 25
Christmas is a religious and cultural holiday observed by billions of people all over the world. Those who celebrate usually decorate a Christmas tree, hang lights and decorations around their house, tell stories of Santa Clause, and participate in gift giving and meals with family and friends. Christians, including protestant and Catholic denominations, partake in honoring the birth of Jesus Christ and may attend church services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
On December 24, when we celebrate Christmas Eve, we meet at my house, with my parents and my brother Sebas. My grandparents, my uncles, my cousins and my great-grandmother come to join us too.
We all start getting ready very early by tidying up the house, we arrange the gifts and my Mommy and Daddy prepare a delicious dinner for the night. We also drink chocolate milk that my parents and my grandpa prepare.
When night comes, we get dressed and are very excited to receive our family and share with everyone. We celebrate and we remember the birth of our baby Jesus, but we also celebrate my parents' wedding anniversary.
St. Jude patient Santiago, from Ecuador
What does it mean to celebrate Christmas for me? Wow! It’s as if baby Jesus was my son. It’s like being born again, and having hope being born in my heart. It’s an opportunity to celebrate as a family.
Having Lucas is a tremendous excitement! I’m so fortunate and blessed for the gift of life. St. Jude and God are the biggest blessing in my life, without them, I wouldn’t have Lucas by my side. You have no idea how much I enjoy every minute with him.
Daniela, mother of St. Jude patient Lucas, from Chile
Our first month of treatment was December and we spent Christmas at St. Jude. It was a special time because life had changed for us, but we were able to have some sense of normalcy because of how beautiful the hospital is during that time of the year.
We make it a big deal to decorate as a family, while enjoying hot chocolate, karaoke, singing songs from the the Jackson 5 Christmas album and just enjoying being together!
Chastity, mother of St. Jude patient Jordyn, from the U.S.
5. New Year's Eve & New Year's Day
DECEMBER 31 & JANUARY 1
Many countries celebrate Jan. 1 as a national holiday for the New Year, which is based on the Gregorian calendar. Usually, celebrations take place on the night before — New Year’s Eve. There are many ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve, including staying at home with loved ones, feasting, attending parties and toasting at midnight. Cities around the world display fireworks. For some, a New Year’s Day tradition is to eat black-eyed peas for luck and prosperity in the coming year.
For New Year my family dances. We don’t really know what we are doing but it’s fun!
We eat borek, a special kind of bread in Turkey; baklava, a turkish dessert; sarma, a turkish meal with rice, and cacik, a kind of yogurt, but it changes from time to time.
St. Jude patient Ceylin, from Turkey
6. Three Kings Day
Three Kings Day, also called Epiphany, is celebrated by Christians around the world. It is honored as the manifestation of God as Jesus Christ. Celebrations and customs vary widely between countries and may differ depending on their region. Common and popular festivities include singing, having your house blessed, chalking your front door, eating Three Kings cake, winter swimming and attending church services.
In my family we celebrate a feast that we call a pledge. It's when you commit to give gifts to a saint every year if he gives you what you ask for. And in that pledge the neighborhood is invited and they sing aguinaldos to the Three Holy Kings to pay the pledge.
Aguinaldos are a typical Christmas music here in Puerto Rico. It is a custom from the night before, to take holly and place it under the tree for the camels.