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December is Full of Holidays: Do You Know How Others Celebrate?


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Every year after Thanksgiving it seems like all eyes shift to Christmas, but the holiday season is different for everyone! Many people may only celebrate one holiday – or several. Recognizing other holidays is important when it may sometimes seem like Christmas takes center stage – remember that we’re not all the same, and that’s okay!

Check out a few holidays in December and how they may be celebrated.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is recognized by those of Jewish faith. The celebration lasts for eight days which symbolizes the eight days a small amount of oil was miraculously able to light the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem. The menorah (a multi-branched candelabra) is used to light a candle each night of Hanukkah. Some fun traditions include playing a dreidel game and winning “coins” (usually chocolate medallions or “gelt,” yum!), eating yummy foods such as potato latkes, challah, rugelach, and much more. The Christmas tradition of gift giving has influenced Hanukkah in modern culture. It’s now fairly common to have gift exchanges during Hanukkah – some look forward to eight small gifts, while others one big one!

Kwanzaa

The greeting for this holiday is “Joyous Kwanzaa” and that it is! The name “Kwanzaa” comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili – the chosen language of Kwanzaa. Swahili is often spoken in Eastern Africa in countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, although the holiday is mainly celebrated in the United States. There is a seven-day celebration which honors African heritage in African-American culture. Throughout the seven days of celebration, food and gifts are shared with family and friends alike. The seven candles lit each night of Kwanzaa represent the seven core principles (Nguzo Saba) observed:

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together. 
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men or Three Kings Day)

Although this holiday is not celebrated in December, many people of Hispanic heritage celebrate this instead of Christmas, or sometimes both! In Spanish tradition, the Three Wise Men bring children their gifts on the Day of the Epiphany (Jan. 6). According to Christian beliefs, this was the day that the Three Wise Men (Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltasar) went to visit baby Jesus and brought gifts! The gifts were gold, frankincense (a tree resin valued for its medicinal use), and myrrh which had similar uses. Festivities usually start the day before with parades and goodies for children in towns around countries such as Spain and Mexico. That night children leave their shoes out for “Los Tres Reyes Magos” to come and leave presents beside them!


Christmas

We all have images of Santa and his reindeer coming to visit every year on Dec. 25 to leave presents under the Christmas tree. There are plenty of secular Christmas traditions such as hanging a mistletoe, having stockings to stuff, and in more recent years – Elf on the Shelf! With all these commercialized traditions the true meaning of Christmas is often overshadowed. For those of Christian and Catholic faith, this day holds deep meaning as it is the day that their Savior Jesus Christ was born in the little town of Bethlehem – which you’ve probably heard about in a few Christmas songs! Families come together to celebrate Christmas in many unique ways, but at the end of the day it is always a special day for everyone to spend quality time with their loved ones and reflect.

We can all agree there are similarities between these holidays and that they have a few things in common–celebrating unity, generosity, love, peace, and the sacrifices others have made to make it all possible!
All of us at GSACPC hope your holidays are filled with joy and happiness!