Astronaut Holidays: Unparalleled Experiences in Space

Dec 27, 2023

News

The holidays of Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s are all about happiness, family, and celebration. This entails engaging in festive customs and spending time with loved ones for the majority of people. However, these holidays have a whole new significance for cosmonauts and astronauts in space.

Vacations in space were uncommon in the early years of space exploration. The first Christmas spent in space by astronauts was during the Apollo 8 mission in December 1968. Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders read passages from the Bible’s Book of Genesis while in orbit around the moon, broadcasting the scenes to an estimated billion viewers worldwide.

Vacations in space increased in frequency and length as missions went on. Astronauts Gerald P. Carr, Edward G. Gibson, and William R. Pogue observed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s in space during the 1973–1974 Skylab 4 mission. They watched a comet pass by, made a homemade Christmas tree out of food containers, and had a festive dinner that included fruitcake.

For cosmonauts, the New Year’s holiday was particularly important. Yuri V. Romanenko and Georgi M. Grechko were the first people to celebrate the new year while in orbit on the Salyut-6 space station in 1977 and 1978. In a broadcast on television, they raised a glass to the occasion.

Astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman observed Hanukkah in 1993 while on the STS-61 mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. To celebrate the Festival of Lights, he spun a dreidel and carried a traveling menorah.

Holidays were not only observed in space, but astronauts went above and beyond to make the occasion joyful. The 1999 STS-103 crew, who were entrusted with fixing the Hubble Space Telescope, celebrated Christmas with a special meal that included French specialties.

Twelve Mir expedition crews, including NASA astronauts, spent their vacations on board the Russian space station between 1987 and 1998. Messages were exchanged and customs, like lighting Hanukkah candles and sending Christmas greetings, were demonstrated during these festivities. On board the International Space Station, holiday celebrations are still customarily observed. Whether it’s through live broadcasts, symbolic decorations, or special food items, astronauts and cosmonauts find inventive ways to bring the joy of these festivities to the cosmic realm. Though they may be different, people who celebrate the holidays far above Earth still find great meaning and significance in them.

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Sarmind is a Writer and an aspiring Editor who has experience in various short and long-form niches. Her academic pursuits intensely mold her industry background in content creation. She holds a Master's degree in Literature, and when not writing for professional purposes, she can be found re-reading old classics of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. She is super fond of cats and enjoys hours of doom-scrolling through memes on social media while cuddled up with a cup of desi chai. She likes to think she is an intellectual badass (colloquial: nerdy bore), and now all she needs is a sewing kit to complete the look!

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