By: Val Pena
With Christmas lights and festivities, Santa Clause at the mall, and the constant mantra of “Merry Christmas” from those around you, it’s easy to forget that there are various other holidays in December that are not celebrating Jesus’s birth. The following are holidays that are observed during this season:
- Chanukah (Hanukkah)-Hanukkah is a Jewish festival, lasting eight days from the 25th day of Kislev and commemorating the rededication of the Temple in 165 BC by the Maccabees after its desecration by the Syrians. It is marked by the successive kindling of eight lights.This year, Hanukkah is from December 12th, through the 20th. People celebrate Hanukkah by lighting candles on a menorah, which is also called a Hanukiyah. Each night, one more candle is lit.
2. Kwanzaa- an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community, Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. It is observed from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. There are seven principles to this holiday:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): 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 in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
- Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order 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.
3. Yule- A holiday celebrated by those that practice Wicca. Yule is celebrated at the Midwinter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. At Yule they celebrate winter, and the rebirth of the Sun. At Samhain the Goddess followed the God into the Underworld and the Earth began its long winter slumber. As the Wheel turns to Yule, the Goddess is with child and gives birth to the tiny Oak King, God of the waxing Sun. Yule is also a celebration of the birth of the Sun King and nature’s renewal. They practice sympathetic magick by lighting fires or candles to encourage the sun to grow stronger. This is a time of new beginnings both physically and spiritually; the wheel of the year has made a complete circle. The darkest night of winter is a good time for self-examination and discovering the “seeds” of spiritual growth or hindrance which are lying dormant within us. The Winter Solstice is the turning point in the natural cycle of the year, this darkest night in all the year is followed by a day that will dawn just a little earlier!
There are of course, many other December holidays that were not listed that are celebrated as well. What is important is to keep an open mind, and switch out “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays”, because diversity is all around us, and Christmas is not the only holiday that exists.