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Dance Around the World Around This Time of Year

by Adam Frost, 4th January 2021
Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday of light, is celebrated around December, and is the only holiday that is not a religious festival but a tradition based on a miracle of light.
The main traditions are eating fried doughnuts, lighting candles, decorating our windows, playing with swivels, telling stories, singing and of course dancing.
We dance for the light, we chase away the darkness and celebrate the victory of light as individual and community, as a way of telling the story, of having fun, of expanding the internal light and clean away the dark within and outside of us.
(contributed by Idit Rose)
Kwanzaa, mostly celebrated in USA
Dancing, singing, African drumming, storytelling and poetry reading within families are among the customs of this celebration created by Dr Maulana Karenga in 1966 as a way to bring African-Americans together after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. The name is derived from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits”.

Shab-e Yaldā, Iran
Friends and family gather on the night of the Winter Solstice to dance, share poetry, stories and jokes and divining the poet Hafiz. It is said no-one should divine Hafiz more than three times lest the poet get angry.

Auld Lang Syne, UK
Everyone (at least in my generation) in the UK and much of the English-speaking world will be very familiar with this custom that originated in Scotland, in which people arrange themselves in a circle, cross their arms, hold hands with their neighbours and altogether, move their hands up and down (that’s the dance bit) to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, which they all sing along to if they are sober enough and know the words. Read the Scottish lyrics and hear an English version on YouTube here.

Painting by Tim Cockburn (published with the kind permission of the artist).

Lohri harvest festival, India
Bonfires and dancing to Punjabi folk songs form part of the festivities during this celebration held by Hindu and Sikh communities, on or close to 13 January. Here’s a Lohri Dance performance on YouTube from this year’s celebrations.

Soyal Solstice Celebration, the Zuni and Hopi Native American Tribes
Belonging to the Zuni and Hopi native tribes of North America, Soyal involves traditional dances in masks and costumes to mark the return of the sun after the longest night of the year.

Burning muñecos in some parts of Latin America
Dancing with revelry through the night and burning muñecos (effigies that symbolise the year’s emotional baggage) are central features of New Year celebrations in many countries in Latin America, including Panama, Peru and Ecuador.

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