Holiday spirit sweeps the whole world
Welcome to This Week, Those Books, your rundown on books new and old that resonate with the week’s big news story.
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The Big Story:
It’s the holiday season all over the world with one year ending and the other about to be born.
The unique appeal of the Christmas period is that in an always-on world, this is the one time of year it’s possible to switch off because offices, schools and shops almost everywhere are closed, or working reduced hours. Christian or not, the last week of the year has become a global sabbath, meant to be about good food, good fun, gifts, family, friends and downtime.
Some snapshots from around the world:
- Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has unique umbrella Christmas trees.
- Muslim Pakistan declared December 25, the birthday of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Christmas, a public holiday.
- From Hindu-majority India, tips on how to spice up holiday feasts.
- Nigeria, which is divided roughly half and half between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, slashed holiday travel costs, even offering free train rides.
- In China, run by the officially atheist Communist Party, the season focuses more on the shopping side of Christmas and there is even a Christmas village in Mohe, the country’s most northern city.
- The earliest recorded new year celebration was Akitu in Babylon, 4,000 years ago. However, the Babylonian new year was not in January but the first new moon of March.
- Christmas celebrations were developed to supplant much older mid-winter holidays such as the Roman festivals of Saturnalia, starting December 17, and the December 25 festival of the birth of the sun. There are archaeological records of winter solstice events going back thousands of years.
- The Gregorian calendar, the world’s most widely used, refers to New Year’s Eve as Old Year’s Day. In some countries, it’s called St Sylvester’s Day.
This Week, Those Books:
- The ultimate guide to this season’s celebrations, around the world.
- A novel that marks the moment Christmas, Hanukah and Ramadan coincided on the calendar.