Holidays in December (other than Christmas)

Holidays in December (other than Christmas)

Elizabeth Walker, staff writer

With all the hustle and bustle of presents, yuletide, and giving, the month of December tends to escape us. We all know that this is one of the most festive months of the year, but we sometimes forget that not everyone celebrates the same holidays we do, or in the same way. In this regard, here are some late December holidays that people celebrate this time of year other than Christmas.

Hanukkah is a holiday that many Jewish people celebrate. It commemorates the dedication of the second temple in Jerusalem. It is said that outside the temple an oil lamp, with but one day’s worth of oil to burn, burned for 8 days straight. For Hanukkah, Jewish people start celebrations on the 25th day of the month in the Hebrew calendar called Kislev. The festivities last for 8 days, in accordance with the history of the temple. Most families give gifts on each of the 8 days of Hanukkah, and the families all gather ‘round to sing Jewish hymns. 

Another tradition includes lighting the menorah (a menorah is a candle holder with 9 candles). Each day a different candle is lit, and the final candle lit is called the shamash (it’s used to light the other candles). The candles represent each of the days the lantern burned outside the second temple. Children laugh, joke, and play with their dreidels, which are four sided tops with letters that correspond with the Hebrew religion. People who celebrate Hanukkah typically eat fried foods during this time, to represent the oil in the lamp. They eat donuts, fritters, and potato pancakes, along with many more delicious foods. 

Kwanzaa, on the other hand, is a celebration of African-American heritage. It begins on Dec. 26 and lasts all the way until Jan. 1. The name “Kwanzaa” comes from a Swahili word which means, when translated, “first fruits of harvest.” People typically celebrate this holiday by hanging African art in their home and displaying the traditional colors of Kwanzaa: red, green, and black. For all of the ceremonies, people who celebrate this holiday gather these seven things: ears of corn, gifts, a unity cup, a candle holder, seven candles,  fruits and vegetables, and a mat to place all of the above on. Each of these things symbolize something within the culture of African-Americans.

There are seven main principles of Kwanzaa: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Imani (faith), Nia (purpose), Ujima (responsibility and work), Ujamaa (business), and Kuumba (creativity). Each one of these principles gets a full day of celebration dedicated to them. Each candle on the candle holder symbolizes a different day of Kwanzaa, and you light each one per day until, on the last day, they’re all lit. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle. The red candles represent the struggles of slavery, the green candles represent the hope for the future, and the one black candle represents unity. Some people combine Christmas and Kwanzaa to celebrate their religions and their heritage. 

The last holiday to mention is Boxing Day. It’s called Boxing Day because the rich used to box up gifts and give them to the poor.  This is celebrated on Dec. 26, and it is typically celebrated in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. It’s a holiday where you show appreciation for service people in your community: mail carriers, people in trades, servers, doormen, and others performing service jobs. The main thing this holiday entails is simply tipping and giving thanks to the hard workers that otherwise go unnoticed in your community. It’s also a day to give to the poor. 

There are many different things happening during this time of year. We should take some time to appreciate all the cultures, religions, and disparate holidays that occur during this time. It is amazing to see all the wonderful traditions and customs carried out by all of our ancestors still to this day. Hopefully no matter which holiday you celebrate, you are a little more knowledgeable about the different holidays that are celebrated around the world. Whatever or wherever you celebrate, have a happy holiday and a great new year.