Explore Festivals from Around the World!

November 25-December 30

Festivals of Light is an annual exhibit, returning each December as we prepare for the winter solstice and the many cultural celebrations that happen during the season.

From the Friday after Thanksgiving through December 30th, Festivals of Light explores a winter holiday celebration  from the perspective of a family. Children explore the food, decorations, games, activities and music associated with each holiday as they step into a ‘household’ amidst their celebration.

This unique offering provides families with hands-on multi-cultural experiences. By highlighting several different winter solstice celebrations, Festivals of Light focuses on both the science of the seasons and on the different traditions integral to each festival.

Why We Explore:

Our goal is to provide children and their families the opportunity to explore a variety of celebrations and festivals that take place in the winter months. It is important to note that the Museum does not directly celebrate the holidays. Instead, we explore them. Often these traditions are closely connected to beliefs that a family holds. For that reason, the Museum offers the chance to explore the holidays throughout the month, and we let those who hold those beliefs celebrate as they see fit on the actual dates of the holiday.

There are numerous options when exploring the winter traditions and celebrations. We hope to provide opportunities for families to explore traditions different from their own and find similarities and differences in traditions.

Our Festivals of Light Season Will Include:

Kwanzaa – In Swahili, the word Kwanzaa means “the first fruits of the harvest”. This festival includes the lighting of a candle each night during the week-long celebration. The candles represent seven principles, including purpose, creativity and unity. Kwanzaa is celebrated in the United States to remind African Americans of their African beginnings.

Loi Krathong – During the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, Thailand celebrates Loi Krathong, the Festival of Lights. Loi Krathong refers to the lotus-shaped receptacle that can float on water. The festival is celebrated by building a Loi Krathong, filling it with food, nuts, flowers, coins and a candle, making a wish and letting it float away with the current of a river.

Pasko – The Philippines is known for having the world’s longest Christmas season, September 1st through January 6th. Houses, shops and buildings are filled with decorations such as a “belen”, or nativity scene, and a “parol”, or lantern. A “parol” is a Christmas lantern, most commonly in the shape of a five-pointed star. Made with a bamboo frame and rice paper, traditionally a candle was placed inside, but for safety reasons, people now use bulbs to shine light through.

Las Posadas – Spanish for “the inns,” Las Posadas is a celebration that commemorates Joseph and Mary’s voyage from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of shelter. Traditional celebrations include communities within Spain, Mexico, Guatemala and parts of the Southwestern United States reenacting the journey by traveling from household to household in search of a room to stay in.

Diwali – Meaning “array of lights,” Diwali is one of the most important celebrations in India. Largely a Hindu celebration, Diwali is now celebrated throughout nearly every region of India and celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.

Christmas Around the World – On December 25th, families remember the birth of Jesus Christ by displaying nativity scenes and following the tradition of Santa Claus visiting good girls and boys on Christmas Eve. Light is displayed throughout the Christmas season in many ways, including twinkle lights, Yule logs, advent candles, the Bethlehem Star and the lighting of trees.

Hanukkah – Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration that begins on the 25th of the month of Kislev in the Jewish calendar. This festival celebrates the triumph of freedom for Jewish people and the miracle of the lights of the holy temple.

Santa Lucia – Also known as the feast of St. Lucy (which is Latin for “light”), Santa Lucia remembers the saint who is said to have brought food to hungry Christians hiding from the Romans. Primarily celebrated in Scandinavian countries, every member of the family receives a Lucia Bun as children create a parade representing the arrival of light and nourishment to towns and villages.