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9 Winter holidays around the world

We’ve asked the experts — our patients and their families — to share how they celebrate winter holidays around the world, from Christmas in Ecuador, to the New Year in Turkey. As we celebrate our St. Jude Thanks and Giving campaign, explore the holiday traditions our families love.

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St. Jude patient Alana and her mom  next to a Christmas tree.

St. Jude patient Alana with her mom


Celebrate winter holidays with St. Jude

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 winter holidays in different ways.

Get to know St. Jude families as they share their traditions.

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1. Diwali


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 late October or November.


How St. Jude patients celebrate Diwali

St. Jude patient Bella and her brother preparing for Diwali.

St. Jude patient Bella and her brother preparing for Diwali in 2021.


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

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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.


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Video of St. Jude patient Claire playing with her dog in the snow.

St. Jude patient Claire and her dog in 2022


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.

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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.


How St. Jude patients celebrate Las Posadas


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. 

— Carmen, grandmother of St. Jude patient Ian, from Mexico

St. Jude patient Ian sitting in front of giant ornaments.

St. Jude patient Ian


4. Hanukkah


Hanukkah (Chanukah) is the 8-day Jewish Festival of Lights celebrating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Following their defeat of the Seleucid (Syrian-Greek) rule over the Holy Land, Judah and the Maccabees sought to light the Holy Temple’s Menorah, an 8-branched candelabra.

Upon doing so, they found there was only enough oil to light the Menorah for one day. Miraculously, the small bit of oil lasted for eight days. To commemorate this miracle, the annual festival Hanukkah was created. Hanukkah is celebrated with nightly menorah lighting, prayers, games and songs and traditional Jewish foods, such as potato latkes and challah bread.  


Every St. Jude patient deserves a chance to live their best life and celebrate every moment. Your support helps St. Jude give kids with cancer a chance.

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5. Winter Solstice


The winter solstice marks the shortest day (and longest night) of the year and the official beginning of winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice is celebrated on December 21, the mark of the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Around the world, winter solstice is celebrated across a multitude of cultures with festivals, food, music and dancing. 


6. 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 Claus, 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.


How St. Jude patients celebrate Christmas

St. Jude patient Jordyn with a Christmas tree.

St. Jude patient Jordyn in 2018


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 Jackson 5 Christmas album and just enjoying being together!

— Chastity, mother of St. Jude patient Jordyn, from the U.S.

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7. Kwanzaa


Established in 1966, Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American culture that takes place each year from December 26 to January 1. Kwanzaa is inspired by the beginning of the harvest season in Africa. Families throughout the United States and around the world celebrate with symbolic table-setting, shared feasts, nightly lighting of black, red and green candles and reflections on the 7 principles of Kwanzaa. 


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8. New Year's Eve & New Year's Day


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.


How St. Jude patients celebrate the New 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

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St. Jude patient Ceylin dancing with her dad.

St. Jude patient Ceylin dancing with her dad in 2020


9. 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.


How St. Jude patients celebrate Three Kings Day

St. Jude patient Joesh's Christmas tree.

St. Jude patient Joesh's Christmas tree in 2020


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.

St. Jude patient Joesh, from Puerto Rico


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St. Jude patient Natalie wears a red and white striped shirt and smiles.

St. Jude patient Natalie

white stars artwork by St. Jude patient Ty

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