In October, at work, I was already writing for December content. I was like bring on the snow, let’s bake Christmas cookies, and I NEED to watch, It’s a Wonderful Life — October happenings were sooo two months ago! But now it actually is December, and in an attempt to get into the Christmas spirit, I’m going to share some of the December topics I wrote about back in October, and I wrote a LOT – like 80 blogs worth or so. But I digress, back to the subject at hand. I’ll begin with one about “the holidays” but here, I’m going to say, Merry Christmas, because I can! I can also say Kwanza, Chanukkah (or Hanukkah; both are used, I checked), and Winter Solstice too if I want. In fact, I’ll also throw in Boxing Day, and it’s not too late to add The Twelve Days of Christmas. But let’s start with the major December holidays.
In December we refer collectively to “the holidays” — but just what are the December holidays? Today, I’m going to give a brief answer to that question. So grab a nice cup of cocoa, settle into your favorite reading place, and learn (briefly) about the December holidays. Then make plans to celebrate your favorite holiday and maybe think about celebrating one another holiday in December too!
Christmas – Celebrated December 25th
Christmas Day is celebrated by Christians in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Many traditions have grown up around this holiday, adaptations of pagan celebrations (think Yule log and Christmas tree), as well as traditional remembrances (Christmas carols and hymns have been performed for decades). Other symbols and traditions associated with having a Merry Christmas include reindeer, elves, and Santa Claus (or Kris Kringle, or Father Christmas, or St. Nicholas), nativities, snowmen, gingerbread houses, festive lights, kisses under the mistletoe, and the giving of gifts. To learn more about this holiday, check out this article about Christmas from History.com.
Chanukka – Celebrated December 12th – 20th
Chanukkah (Hanukkah), a Jewish festival of rededication, also known as The Festival of Lights, is the eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. (This year that Chanukkah begins Tuesday, December 12th and goes through Wednesday, December 20 according to the Gregorian calendar) Probably because of its relative closeness to Christmas, Chanukkah is one of the better known Jewish holidays, even though it is not one of the high holy days. It does have an interesting story behind it — in short, it’s the story of a “revolution against assimilation and the suppression of Jewish religion.”
Activities associated with Chanukkah include the ceremonial lighting of the candles, arranged in a candelabrum called a menorah, and the eating of fried food because of the significance of oil to the story. Latkes (potato pancakes) are often served. Gift-giving, with the exception of gelt, (small amounts of money) was not a part of the original holiday observance but was added later on. Playing dreidel is another practice associated with the celebration (the link will take you to an online version of dreidel). Chanukkah music is an important part of the celebration.
Kwanzaa – Celebrated Dec 26, 2017 – Jan 1, 2018
Kwanzaa is a seven-day celebration designed as a way for African Americans to confirm their heritage and culture. Established in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is the first holiday specifically for African Americans. The name comes from a Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” meaning “the first fruits of the harvest.” Intended originally to replace Christmas; it has since been changed so that Christian African-Americans can celebrate both holidays.
Each day of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of seven principles: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). The symbols associated with Kwanzaa include a decorative mat upon which the other symbols are placed. They are the kinara (candleholder), which holds seven candles, the muhindi (ear of corn – representing children, the future), and the bendera (the black, red, and green of Kwanzaa).
Kwanzaa celebrations include a candle lighting ceremony, gifts for the children that include both a book and a heritage symbol, decorations of traditional African items, and greetings spoken in Swahili.
Other December holidays include Winter Solstice, December 21st, the day of the solar equinox, and Festivus, the December 23rd holiday inspired by the popular Seinfeld TV show. On December 26th, Boxing Day is celebrated in England! What is your favorite December holiday? Let me know in the comments. Whichever way or holiday you choose to celebrate this month, enjoy! I hope you have the best celebration ever. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get my Christmas tree up this week, and my nutcrackers out, and the presents wrapped (after I get all of them), and it’s a busy time of year, isn’t it?