Every December, my parent’s home is transformed into a Christmas wonderland. A douglas fir stands proudly in our family room, a nativity scene is on display below the television, garlands of green line the bannister, and white lights twinkle on the bushes outside.
While I grew up believing in Santa and attending mass on Christmas Eve, I know not everyone’s religious beliefs align with mine. The December snowfall not only brings sleigh bells and Christmas cheer, but also celebrations for several other religious holidays.
No matter what you are celebrating this holiday season, it is important to know what your neighbors may be celebrating as well.
Known as the festival of lights, Chanukah is an eight-day Jewish holiday. Each night, an additional candle is lit on the menorah along with prayers and food.
The holiday commemorates the second century BCE victory of a small group of Jews over the Greek army. After reclaiming the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a one-day supply of oil miracuously sustained the flames of the menorah for eight days.
Because the miracle was centered around oil, fried foods have become a common custom in Chanukah cuisine. Observers also play with dreidels, a four-sided spinning top, where prizes are determined by the side the dreidel lands.
This year, Chanukah will begin on December 2 and end on December 10.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one. The holiday was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University, Long Beach, to celebrate African culture and heritage.
Kwanzaa lasts for seven days, representing the seven principles, which include unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Candles are lit to commemorate the holiday.
While families celebrate Kwanzaa in different ways, celebrations often include dancing, singing, storytelling, and a large meal. It is a time to remember the rich history of African-Americans.
The seven day celebration begins on December 26 and ends on January 1.
Chinese New Year
For many, the New Year begins on January 1. However, in traditional Chinese culture, that is not the case. The Chinese New Year happens in late January/early February, with the exact date changing each year. This year, the new year will begin on February 5, 2019.
As the most important holiday on the Chinese calendar, the New Year is a time to reunite with family and friends. The color red is said to bring luck and the color gold is said to bring wealth.
Also known as the Spring Festival in modern China, the holiday brings along a new Zodiac animal. 2019 will be the year of the Pig. Men born during this year are optimistic and gentle. Women born are full of excitement.
While we’ve only named just a few, the celebrations this holiday season are endless. We may all have different reasons and beliefs to celebrate this winter, however, we all share a common theme. This winter is a time to gather with loved ones, gives to those in need, and celebrate the blessings you’ve been given.
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