10 holiday traditions from across the world your kids will love

It’s important that every family creates holiday traditions they take great pride in, but it’s equally important to learn about the rich customs and celebrations that take place in different cultures.

Teach your kids about these amazing traditions from around the world. You’ll be surprised at how much it enriches your family’s own celebration.

Hanukkah in Israel

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.

More: 16 Adorably crafty holiday gifts kids can make themselves

New Year’s Eve in Ecuador

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 in the U.S.

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.

More: The baby names guaranteed to land on Santa’s naughty list

Omisoka in Japan

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.

Next: Ta Chiu in Hong Kong

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Ta Chiu in Hong Kong

Those in Hong Kong pray to the gods and ghosts of their ancestors asking that they will fulfill wishes for the next year. Priests read aloud the names of every person living at the celebration and attach a list of names to a paper horse and set it on fire. The smoke carries the names up to the gods and the living will be remembered.

More: I’m the mean mom who won’t give her kids toys this Christmas

Christmas in France

In France, Christmas is called Noel. And though there are many similarities to Christmas in the U.S., you’ll find a number of key differences. A figure called Pere Noel, father of Christmas, makes home visits with gifts. On Christmas Eve, children leave their shoes by a fireplace that will be filled with the gifts. In the morning, they awake to find fruits, nuts and small toys. Nearly every home has a Nativity Scene, which serves as the focal point of decoration and celebration, just as the Christmas tree does in U.S. homes.

Christmas in Alaska

Christmas traditions in Alaska are similar to the rest of the Unites States, but there are a few unique differences that make an Alaskan Christmas special. For example, children go caroling with a long pole topped by a colored star. Songs sung in the home often include the Aleut words “Gristuusaaq suu’uq,” which means “Christ is born.” The closing words, “Mnogaya leta,” means, “God grant you many years.” Treats may include cookies, doughnuts, and cake, as well as fish pie called piruk and smoked salmon.

St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland

Christmas festivities in Ireland tend to be more religious in nature than about simple fun. Christmas celebrations last from Christmas Eve until January 6th (Epiphany). On the 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, an Irish tradition that is known as the Wren Boys Procession takes place. Children go from door to door singing, holding a stick that is topped by a holly bush and a wren. They ask for money for the “starving wren,” which goes into their pockets. In ancient times, a real wren was killed and fastened to the stick, but today fake wrens are used.

Sviata Vechera in the Ukraine

The Christmas Eve festivities in the Ukraine are known as Sviata Vechera, which means “Holy Supper.” The celebration begins when the first evening star is sighted in the night sky. In farming communities, the household head brings in a sheaf of wheat which symbolizes the wheat crops of Ukraine. It is called “didukh,” which translates to “grandfather spirit.” In homes within the city, a few stalks of wheat may be used to decorate the table.

More: Why I’ll never force my kid to sit on Santa’s lap

Holiday traditions from around the world

Image: Karen Cox/SheKnows

Originally published December 2015. Updated December 2016.

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What happens when you spend Christmas alone

I thought I was immune to the bone-deep depression that afflicts the person who decides to spend Christmas alone – I am, after all, Jewish, and I enjoy my own company so much I’ve been known to greet the news of people canceling plans with gratitude and relief on par with finding out the test results are negative.

But the holidays are so profoundly freighted with societally agreed-upon messages of togetherness – carolers’ voices rising in unison, mistletoe kisses, dining rooms clown car-full of in-laws and newborns and neighbors – that spending the day alone constitutes a terrible violation of a sacred social contract. This contract insists we are meant to be with other people over the holidays, and we all become automatic co-signers of the contract just by existing during this gingerbread and frost-tinged season.

The best-laid plans

Given the demands of my siblings’ partners’ families, my own immediate family often celebrates Christmas a few weeks before the 25th. The year I spent Christmas alone, we’d had our holiday celebration at my parents’ house at the beginning of December. By the time actual Christmas rolled around, I was psyched at the idea of taking the holidays for myself. I refused local friends’ invitations to attend orphan dinners and movie dates and planned to treat the few days off from work as a luxury to be indulged in to the utmost. I was going to sleep late. I was going to read books and eat Mallomars for dinner and watch The West Wing for the third time. I was going to have a decadent staycation doing exactly what I was certain I wanted to do at all times and it was going to be glorious.

On Christmas morning, as families gathered bleary-eyed around the tree to open presents, kids in their footed PJs, parents in flannel robes with big mugs of coffee, I went out for a brisk jog. It was freezing cold and the park was empty. It was eerily quiet, not a creature stirring but a homeless man feeding bread to a brood of stray cats. I ran faster, telling myself how lucky I was to have this entire morning to myself when everyone else on Earth was inside getting cabin fever.

The loneliness sets in

But I didn’t feel lucky – I felt like an outlaw. I felt nervous about what I was going to do with the rest of the day with the stores closed, the streets empty of neighbors. I knew the phone would not ring. I knew there would be no emails – work or otherwise – as everyone I knew was occupied with Christmas pursuits.

I went home and showered the slow, leisurely shower of a person who has nowhere to be, but as I toweled off, I felt the anxiety rising. I was faced with the dilemma of getting dressed even though I knew full well I would not be leaving the house or putting my pajamas on at noon, an action that is so totally depressing that I split the difference and put on what I convinced myself were cozy clothes, but were really just pajamas that didn’t have holes in the crotch. I put on the radio, but of course the only thing on was that marathon broadcast of Handel’s Messiah radio people assume is the only thing anyone would turn the radio on for on Christmas.

The sun sets on Christmas at approximately 2 p.m. By the time I’d eaten lunch – cottage cheese and water, the only things in the fridge – it was that gray winter twilight hour that is the temporal equivalent of despair. I tried to read, but it was eerily quiet. It felt cold in my apartment, like the building management had assumed everyone was out of town and turned off the heat. It felt like when you’d stay home from school sick as a kid, after The Price Is Right and the morning talk shows were over, and Eyewitness News would come on as you dozed on the couch, the dust-filled light streaming in. I was lonely, at home when people aren’t meant to be at home – this is what happens when you delude yourself into thinking that the most people-centric day of the year is a good day to spend alone.

It was all a terrible idea

By 9 p.m., I had caved and called my friend Avi. “Get dressed,” he commanded. “We’re going out.”

Over Chinese food, I described my day – the loneliness so acute it felt dangerous, the insidious cold and quiet of a city depopulated of people, my best-laid plans gone awry.

“You can’t opt out of the holidays,” Avi declared.

“But in theory, you should be able to spend a day alone without it feeling like you’re going to be alone forever,” I protested.

“In theory you should, but in practice…” he said.

In practice, opting out of the holidays is something you should not do if you can help it. This is not to say, of course, that no one on Earth would be capable of having a delightful day of me-time on Christmas. The dream of reading and TV-watching and manicures and cookies is indeed possible, but for those of us who are accustomed to Christmas being a group event, a busy series of gift-giving and wassail-sipping and glad tiding-bringing, trying to spend the day alone is really – no matter how much you think you despise the holiday – a truly terrible idea.

This article originally appeared on Scary Mommy.

Days of Our Lives shoots back at Victoria Rowell lawsuit

The ongoing lawsuit with Victoria Rowell, Sony Pictures and Corday Productions might soon have a conclusion, because Days of Our Lives says they have a good reason they didn’t hire her. If California federal judge John Kronstadt believes their argument, Rowell’s suit might come to an end.

More: 5 ridiculous ways Stefano DiMera died on Days of Our Lives

Rowell told her story to Oprah Winfrey in October and explained why she pursued the lawsuit to begin with.

“Here in Hollywood, I have long championed diversity, not only for African-Americans, but for all minorities, for gender bias, etc.” Rowell said in the Oprah: Where Are They Now? interview.

Some fans argue that Rowell is upset that The Young and the Restless moved on without her character, Drucilla Barber Winters, when she wanted to return in 2015. It was her decision to leave the soap in the first place back in 2007.

Her original claims were rejected about her return being rebuffed by Y&R due to her “outspoken campaign for diversity.” She has subsequently called for a boycott of the daytime shows due to their lack of multiformity.

More: Erika Girardi proves that The Young and the Restless is just like RHOBH

While Hollywood is still trying to catch up when it comes to reflecting what America looks like in film and TV, daytime soaps have been at the forefront of groundbreaking storylines. That’s why Ken Corday hopes to end this lawsuit once and for all.

This week, his lawyers fired back with a summary judgment motion and gave a simple reason why Rowell was not hired on DOOL – and it had nothing to do with her activism in the industry. It was about her veteran experience on daytime soaps.

“Rather, Plaintiff – who has years of daytime drama experience and her own fan base – was not the right actress to play Melinda Trask, a minor, one-note character who appeared in only 20 episodes of DOOL,” Corday’s lawyers wrote in the motion.

To bolster their case, DOOL brought in casting director Marnie Saitta, who has worked on the show for years, matching the right actors with characters. She felt that the role wasn’t right for Rowell because it didn’t need an actress of substance. Rowell delivered a high standard with her prior work on Y&R.

More: 12 soap stars who have music you can stream on Spotify

Saitta also mentioned that there was no retaliation for not allowing her to audition due to her advocacy work. The casting director found her call for diversity a positive one for the industry.

Corday is calling this a “legitimate, non-retaliatory reason” for taking Rowell off the audition list. Will this reason alone end the case once and for all?

Rowell has a huge fight ahead of her if the case goes to trial because she will have to prove speculation alone kept her out of the role, which is anything but concrete. She also has to deal with Sony Pictures trying to end their part in the lawsuit because they have nothing to do with Days of Our Lives.

It’s certainly complicated, but Rowell seems ready to see it through to the end.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

'Days of Our Lives': 22 Celebs you never knew were on the show
Image: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

5 holiday hair ideas for your next office party

Ah, the annual office holiday party-such an interesting, mandatory event that requires you to not only look like you put some effort into your appearance, but also not enough effort that you look like the fanciest person there. It’s like a first date…but with your boss. Fun, right?

More: 8 quick and easy hairstyles for when you have absolutely no time

But since you already have the outfit and the makeup and the number-of-drinks-to-appropriately-drink to worry about (although, for your sake, we hope you don’t need to “worry” about any of these things), we figured we’d take away any hair stress with five totally doable, and relatively quick, hairstyles. Each requires just a few bobby pins and hair ties, and each can be done on almost every hair length and type. Scroll down to see our favorites, and get ready to feel somewhat less self-conscious during your next holiday office party.

Triple-Bun Updo

Holiday triple-bun Updo 1

Holiday triple-bun Updo 1

Section off your hair into a half-up ponytail, then twist the ends into a bun and pin in place. Then, scoop and twist the sides of your hair (the inch of hair above your ears) back and into another bun, clipping it in place with a gold barrette. Twist the remaining hair hanging loosely into a bun at the nape of your neck and pin in place.

Teeny, Tiny, Side Braid

Holiday tiny braid 2

Holiday tiny braid 2

Not a fan of updos? Snazz up your usual loose hairstyle by taking the two-inch section of hair above your ear and braid it back behind your ear, tying it off with a tiny clear elastic. Lightly curl the rest of your hair for a soft, wavy finish.

Side Twist-Back

Holiday Side Twist-Back 3

Holiday Side Twist-Back 3

Make a side part, then, on the side with less hair, create three loose, one-inch twists in a row, twisting to the back of our head, then pinning each in place with a bobby pin that matches your hair color.

Twist-Out Bun

Holiday twist-out bun 4

Holiday twist-out bun 4

Create deep side part, then flat-twist one side of your hair (using a two-strand twist) from the edge of your hairline to the back of your head, pinning the twist in place at the nape of your neck. Gather the rest of your hair-pulling a few face-framing curls out to drape across your forehead, first-and twist and pin it into a low chignon.

Gold-Looped Pony

Holiday gold-Looped Pony 5

Holiday gold-Looped Pony 5

Scoop your hair into a half-ponytail and secure it with a clear elastic a few inches above the nape of your neck (this style should look loose and carefree, so keep the ponytail low). Slip a gold hair cuff, like the L. Erickson Cuff Ponytail Holder, over your ponytail and twist and wrap it around the clear elastic. On the last pass over your ponytail, pull your hair only halfway through the cuff, forming a little loop of hair.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

21 versatile cocktail dresses to get you through the holidays
Image: Natalie Cosgrove/SheKnows

Did Jaden Smith split from Sarah Snyder to date Kylie Jenner’s BFF?

Jaden Smith might be a social climber when it comes to the ladies, and he might be getting back in cozy with his ex Kyle Jenner if this news is any indication.

According to Hollywood Life, Smith took Jordyn Woods – Jenner’s BFF – to the 2016 Fashion Awards. MediaTakeOut confirmed the two definitely went as a couple.

But this story got an even weirder twist when Tweeters pointed out that they thought Smith and Woods were actually cousins.

Jaden smith tweet 1

Jaden smith tweet 1

Jaden smith tweet 2

Jaden smith tweet 2

To clarify, they aren’t actually related, but Woods is so close to the family that, according to Bustle, she calls Jaden’s dad, Will Smith, “uncle.”

Jordyn Woods instagram pic 1

Jordyn Woods instagram pic 1

Meanwhile, Smith was most recently known to be in a relationship with Sarah Snyder, and the Internet is buzzing with theories that Smith ditched Snyder in order to get close to Woods.

But it could also be that Smith himself was the victim in the relationship with Snyder. Hollywood Life reported that Snyder was cheating on Smith back in August.

Who knows what went down between Smith and Snyder, but it’s safe to say after seeing him at the Fashion Awards last night, that the two are no longer together.

So does Smith really like Woods or is he just cozying up to her to get back with Jenner?

Jordyn Woods instagram pic 2

Jordyn Woods instagram pic 2

I’m going to go ahead here and think positive thoughts and say that Smith is genuine. I mean, they are just teenagers, after all. Remember when you were in high school and you dated everyone just to date because it was new and exciting? Ya, they’re there in life. It’s just, they’re also on a huge platform where everyone is watching.

Smith should be allowed to explore and date, find out what he likes and doesn’t like, without all the judgement and people prying into his business.

He’ll probably have a new girlfriend in a couple of months and that’s just how it should be when you’re young. Keep it casual, keep it fun.

Do you think Smith is crossing the line by dating Jenner’s BFF or is he just young and having fun?

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

Deep thoughts with Jaden Smith: 45 of his best quotes
Image: Graphics by Terese Condella & Becci Burkhart/SheKnows; photo provided by WENN