December is a Month for Celebrating!


As most people know, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th of December every year. But is that the only important holiday in the final month of the year? Answer: No. There are a few other holidays celebrated around the world at this time of year. Two popular ones celebrated in the United States are Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. While the three holidays are celebrated within days of each other, they could not be more different. So grab a mug of hot chocolate and settle in for a break down of these three very special traditions.

Pamela on Christmas

 Christmas is a well known traditional Christian holiday celebrated all around the world starting on the eve of December 24th and ending on the 25th. Not only is Christmas a Christian holiday, but it is also a public holiday. This means that no matter what you believe, you get the day off of work to spend with family and friends. Even if you don’t give gifts, it is a good opportunity to enjoy time together. Christmas is famous for its colorful decorations, classic Christmas trees, and the big man himself, Santa Clause. Christmas is also known as the season of joy, peace, and happiness because at its roots, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. 

There are many different ways people celebrate Christmas. Some families get together on Christmas Eve to play games, eat a feast, and open a few gifts. Then on Christmas Day they spend time going to church to honor Jesus. Other families begin their celebrations late at night on Christmas Eve and go to church for midnight mass. Afterwards these families stay up all night and open presents into the morning hours. No matter what your schedule looks like, Christmas is fun and everyone enjoys eating a feast, exchanging gifts, and celebrating with games and music. 

Christmas is a time of year anyone can enjoy, everyone can celebrate with their families and loved ones. Children especially love Christmas because they get a lot of gifts from “Santa” on Christmas Day; however, Christmas day is not only about sharing gifts, but it is also about being kind and thinking about others. Many people spend the holiday helping others in need so they are able to enjoy their holidays as well. No matter how you spend the day, may it be filled with joy and laughter!

Overall Christmas is the time of year to enjoy sharing and give to one another. Everyone enjoys Christmas holidays by singing, dancing, partying, and spending time together in general, which is the best part about christmas. 

Andrika on Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that lasts 8 days and nights and begins on the 25th day of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar. Because this calendar relies on both the sun and the moon, the date that Hanukkah begins can be any day between November and December. This year it starts on December 18th and it ends on December 26th, if you are following a traditional Gregorian calendar which is the most commonly used calendar around the world. This special Jewish holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee in 168 BCE. During this holiday, the Jewish people light a menorah, play a game called dreidel, and eat fried foods like latkes or sufganiyot. 

What’s a Menorah? 

A menorah is a gold candelabrum whose seven branches represent knowledge and creation. It is used to celebrate Hanukkah because, once Judah regained control in Jerusalem, he called on his followers to rebuild the Second Temple and light its menorah. The people were meant to keep it burning every night, but they only had enough oil for one night. Miraculously, the menorah stayed lit for 8 days and nights. In remembrance of this miracle, Jewish families buy menorahs and light one candle each day as they read their scripture and recite psalms and a special hymn. The largest menorah in the world is in New York City and stands at 32 feet (9.8 m) and is lit at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in Manhattan near Central Park.

Gifts are also given on each night of Hanukkah and one popular gift to give is money. Another tradition of this holiday is that the food is fried in oil because it symbolizes the miracle oil that allowed the menorah to burn for eight days. A game that children often play during Hanukkah is Spin the Dreidel. A dreidel is a spinning top that was created as a way for Jews to study the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. How to play:

  1. Each player puts one item from his pile of tokens into the center, making a ‘pot’.
  2. Players take turns spinning the dreidel. …
  3. At the end of a player’s turn, every player places another token into the pot.
  4. When the player runs out of pieces, they are either out of the game or can ask another player for a loan.

While Hanukkah might not be the most important Jewish holiday in terms of religious significance, it has become very popular because it brings families together. I think it’s important to not only celebrate your own traditions, but to try to understand other peoples’ traditions, too.

Yesly on Kwanzaa

Did you know that in 1966, Dr. Maulana Karenga created a tradition for African American families to reconnect with their roots and their community? Well, he did and it was named Kwanzaa. 

Kwanzaa starts on the 26th of December and ends on January 1st. Its name comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits”. Families who celebrate Kwanzaa have their own unique way to celebrate but usually it includes songs, dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a very large traditional meal. As much as it is a tradition for African Americans, it is not a religious holiday.  In fact, it is celebrated by people other than African Americans, people with many faiths, and those who don’t embrace any religion. Each day of the week has a different word in Swahili to represent one of the seven core principles of the holiday:

  1. Umoja (unity)
  2. Kujichagulia (self-determination)
  3. Ujima (collective work and responsibility)
  4. Ujamaa (cooperative economics)
  5. Nia (purpose)
  6. Kuumba (creativity)

While anyone around the world can celebrate Kwanzaa, it is mainly celebrated in America. So how does someone celebrate Kwanzaa? 

Families gather to give gifts, share feasts, and light the Kinara, a ceremonial candle holder. The first three candles are red, they represent unity, self determination, responsibility. The middle one is black, which represents cooperative economics. The last 3 candles are green and represent purpose, creativity, and faith. The tradition lasts 7 days, the first night the center black candle is lit and as the days go by, they lite each candle. On the final day of Kwanzaa, families enjoy an African feast (Karamu). The feast Karamu is almost similar to the thanksgiving dinner. They pray first to honor their ancestors and family they have, they have historical readings about their past.