As of writing this, I am in a local coffee shop – my new haunt, Looking Glass Coffee – sitting in a plush deep set chair next to a Christmas tree listening to Christmas music.
Christmas is the “big dance” for a lot of people both religiously and culturally during this time of year – but it isn’t the only dance! There are several other holidays other than Christmas that are definitely worth knowing about and respecting! So grab a blanket and a cup of tea or cocoa, sit back in a comfy chair by the fire, and learn about some other holidays.
Hanukkah / November 28 – December 26
Hanukkah (Chanukah) is a Jewish Holiday or festival of lights observed for eight days and nights and falls anywhere from late November to Late December. The holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah every night, and special prayer and food. Chanukah means “dedication” and the holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. The menorah has nine candles, one of which is used to light the others and presides over the others. On the first night, people light only the first flame. Each night after, another flame is lighted. The menorah is placed in a window or doorway in every house. A special prayer is recited daily and food fried in oil is eaten, since the Chanukah miracle involved oil.
Kwanzaa / December 26 to January 1
Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage in African-American culture and is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st. Celebration culminates in gift-giving and a feast. The holiday was created by Mualana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966. Kwanzaa has seven core principles, which are thought to represent “the best of African thought and practice in constant exchange with the world.”
1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
3. 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.
4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
5. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
6. 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.
7. 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.
Winter Solstice / December 21
Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year; or the shortest day depending how you look at it. For many people around the world, this day is celebrated as the return of the sun as the days grow longer from this point on until the summer solstice. Most of these celebrations are centered around feasting and gift-giving. Ancient Romans celebrated Winter Solstice as part of Saturnalia, a feast dedicated to Saturn the god of agricultural bounty. When Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, the customs of feasting, gifting giving, and others were absorbed into Christmas celebrations. One of the most famous celebrations of this holiday takes place at the ruins of Stonehenge in England. According to this article on the holiday, “thousands of Druids and Pagans gather there to chant, dance and sing while waiting to see the spectacular sunrise.”
Diwali / Autumn (October/November)
While this is a little earlier in the year, I wanted to include it to have a more-encompassing list as well as because it is so beautiful. Diwali (Deepawali) is a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus around the world – in autumn for the northern hemisphere and spring for the southern hemisphere. This holiday “spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.”