Oct 22 2019

Cultural Connections: Holiday Traditions Across the World

By Sara Blake & Ishmael Behrhorst

Holiday season has officially begun! While some of us are getting ready for spooky activities, full bellies or caroling, we want to take a moment to highlight some other festive celebrations that you may not be as familiar with. 

An important part of CASA’s work is ensuring that the children we serve remain connected to their family and culture. We’ve seen a child’s face light up when their CASA volunteer recognized the Spanish song that their parents used to sing to them every night, and started to sing it along with him. The holidays can be the toughest time for families when they’re separated, but can also provide opportunities for connection and for the children we serve to share special memories with us. Below are just a few holidays we encourage you to learn more about this season!


Saturday, September 21 - Friday, October 6

When Bavarian Crown Prince Louis, later King Louis I of Bavaria, married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810, the Bavarian royalty invited the citizens of Munich to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates. Horse races in the presence of the royal family concluded the popular event, celebrated in varying forms all across Bavaria. The decision to repeat the festivities and the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the annual Oktoberfest. Learn more.

“From Ages 8-11, I lived in Germany with my family because my mother and father were in the military. Oktoberfest was always one of my favorite times of year. Many of the soldiers and their families would all get together and attend events with the locals. There would be drinking, eating (Brats with peppers and mustard was my favorite), dancing and festivities all night. It was one of the few times out of the year that me and my friends could hang out late with the adults. Being a young child from another country, moments like these were priceless. We created our own families away from home.” Lakinia Ramsey, Recruiting Specialist

Oktoberfest may have ended, but you can still celebrate German Heritage Wurstfest on November 1st in New Braunfels. 

Sukkot: Feast of Tabernacles 

Sunday, October 13 - Sunday, October 20

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot dates back to Biblical times and takes place right after the season of Jewish High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Sukkot marks a change from the solemnity and reflection of the High Holidays to a time of celebration. Also called the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot is the time when the Jewish people celebrated the harvest and thanked God for his provision. The families would gather in temporary booths, called sukkahs, that they built out in the field and decorated with leaves, branches and fruit while gathering their crops. Today, sukkahs are still built, decorated and celebrated in by Jewish communities all around the world during the week of Sukkot. Learn more.

“Growing up, I remember families coming together and building a sukkah outside of our synagogue. The men would build it, and the kids would decorate it with palm branches, pinecones, fruit, you name it. Then we would all eat dinner together underneath. After several weeks of special services (including fasting) during the High Holidays, Sukkot was such a fun way to let loose and celebrate!” - Sara Blake, Communications Manager

Diwali - Festival of Lights

Sunday, October 27

Diwali, also called Deepavali, known as the "Festival of Lights," is a major Hindu festival that symbolizes the victory of good over evil. In North India, Diwali marks the time when the Hindu God Rama achieved victory over the demon Ravana. Celebrations of this event involve lighting lamps and fireworks to symbolize hope and restoration. Diwali is celebrated for five consecutive days at the end of Hindu month of Ashwayuja. It usually occurs in October/November and is one of the most popular and eagerly awaited festivals in India. Hindus and Sikhs alike regard it as a celebration of life and use the occasion to strengthen family and social relationships. Learn more.

Celebrate in Austin at the Round Rock Diwali Fest on October 27! 

Día De Los Muertos - Day of the Dead

Thursday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2

Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. Dia de los Muertos honors the dead with festivals and lively celebrations, a typically Latin American custom that combines indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, brought to the region by Spanish conquistadores

Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones. Learn more.

“As an adult, I convinced my whole family to theme our whole reunion around Día De Los Muertos every year. I got inspired because both sides of the family are so family-oriented, and love any excuse to get together and celebrate. All of my siblings and I lived in different cities until recently, so it’s been an opportunity for all of us to build our own altars and share the pictures with each other. My sister in Houston even had her altar featured in a store display!” - Lydia Garcia, Training Director 

Read our previous blog titled, “Cultural Connections: The traditions and lessons of Día de los Muertos”.

Celebrate in Austin at Krieg Fields on October 31!

Chinese New Year

Saturday, January 25 - Saturday, February 8

A multi-day holiday also known as the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year has a history going back thousands of years. The original story tells of a magical creature, called the Nian, who attacked animals and people on the night before the new year. Finally, a wise old man realized that the Nian was afraid of the color red and loud noises. To this day, using red decorations and setting off fireworks is a big part of the celebration, as is visiting loved ones, watching dragon dances and lantern shows, and sharing traditional meals like dumplings. Now a national holiday in China, the festivities last for two weeks! Learn more

Stay tuned for upcoming celebrations in Austin at the Asian American Cultural Center

CASA strives to develop cultural humility and awareness in working with children and families from different backgrounds. One of the ways we do this is through our Knowing Who You Are (KWYA) training, designed to help child welfare workers and child advocates guide the children they serve to develop healthy racial and ethnic identities, which is crucial in them growing up to be confident and positive individuals. CASA will be hosting the final Knowing Who You Are training of the year on October 25-26. If you are an active volunteer and would like to participate, RSVP here.

2019 Culture & Diversity October

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