Jewish people all over the world observe Hanukkah, but perhaps there is not a more brilliant celebration than in Israel. The eight-day holiday, which lands on different dates in December every year, marks the successful Jewish rebellion over the Greeks. The focal point of celebration is the menorah, a branched candelabrum, and most homes have many. Each night, one candle is lit and gifts are often given to children, games are played and food is enjoyed. Children in Israel even get a week off from school.
In this South American country, a family dresses up a straw man representing the old year. Family members make a will for the straw man that lists all of their faults. At midnight, they burn the straw manin hopes their own faults disappear too.
Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration honoring African-American culture. It was first celebrated in 1966 and is one of the fastest growing holidays. A Kwanzaa celebration often includes singing, drumming and a selection of readings such as the African pledge or parts of African history.
In Japan, Omisoka, or New Year's Eve, is the second most important holiday of the year, following New Year's Day, the start of a new beginning. Japanese families gather for a late dinner around 11 p.m., and at midnight, many make visits to a shrine or temple. In many homes, there is a cast bell that is struck 108 times, symbolizing desires believed to cause human suffering.
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