ISB News Archive

Celebrating Holidays and Cultures
Posted 22/12/2016 15:18

As we continue to think about what learning looks like at ISB, we have been reflecting that one of the best things about ISB is its diverse community. Our amazing school hosts students from over 60 countries all over the world and celebrates just as many fascinating cultures and holidays.

In the last few days before the break, we decided to do some research and find out more about some of the celebrations that members of our community will be enjoying soon. Here is a brief summary of what we learned.


Kwanzaa is a week long celebration, taking place from 26 December to 1 January, mainly celebrated in North America. It is a young tradition, originating in the USA in 1966 to bring African-Americans together and honour their heritage. Kwanzaa has seven core principles, umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-awareness), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith). Each principle is represented with a candle on the kinara, a traditional African candleholder, symbolic of Kwanzaa. Other aspects of African culture are represented in the objects used and foods eaten. It is a cultural holiday rather than a religious one, and therefore a Christmas tree or a menorah next to a kinara would not be an uncommon sight.

Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year is celebrated between 21 January and 20 February, depending on the lunar calendar. Chinese New Year was traditionally a time to rest before the new farming year began, and to pray for a good harvest year to come. Foods traditionally eaten on Chinese New Year include jiaozi (dumplings), bakkwa (dried meat), Buddha's delight (vegetarian stir fry), spring rolls and turnip cake. Many stories and myths are told during Chinese New Year, including the one of the Nian. The Nian is a fearsome beast that preys on children and can only be repealed by loud noises, lights, and the colour red. That is why on the first day of every year, the Chinese celebrate with firecrackers and lanterns, and wear red clothing. There are also large parades with colorful paper dragons, controlled and made to dance by the poles underneath.

Photo: By Jack Parkinson - originally posted to Flickr as Chinese new year lights 014, CC BY 2.0,


The Junkanoo Parades are street parades throughout the Bahamas with music (especially Maranga drumming), dancing, and costumes of Akan (Ghana and Ivory Coast) origin. Junkanoo is celebrated from Boxing Day (26 December) to New Year's Day (1 January). The largest Junkanoo parade happens in Nassau, in the most populous island in the Bahamas, New Providence. There are many theories about the origins of Junkanoo, including the one that states it was a celebration of the legendary king, John Canoe of Ghana, in the early 18th Century. Most people today, however, believe it originated with the 18th Century slaves, who celebrated their few days off with music and dancing.

Photo: By RealJunkanoo - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


On behalf of the Elementary School Communications Club we would like to wish everyone a happy holiday season, whatever you may be celebrating over the next few weeks. 

Written by Alex Radt, Tamar Berger and Anishka Pandey, Grades 4 and 6 Elementary School Communications Club

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