Religious Holidays in December
Most religions have holidays that are celebrated in December. The meaning and spiritual belief behind each holiday vary with the religion.
Christmas is a religious holiday that is celebrated annually on December 25. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on this day. The exact date of Jesus birth is unknown, but to Christians, the precise date doesnt matter. The importance lies in the atonement from sin that Jesus represents. Some practices and traditions can be seen in the table below.
|Nativity Scene || This scene represents where Jesus was born by using a stable, wise men, sheep, Joseph, and Mary. |
|Exchange of Christmas Cards || Cards relay Christmas sentiment such as We wish you a Merry Christmas, Seasons Greetings, and Good Tidings. |
|Exchange of Gifts || Gifts are given to loved ones just as Saint Nicholas presented gifts to the poor. |
|Christmas Dinner || A special family meal is shared on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Food can include turkey, potatoes, cakes, and puddings. |
Bhodi Day is a Buddhist holiday that celebrates Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha. The date of celebration in the West and Japan is December 8. Siddhartha was a rich prince who grew up shielded from the woes of society. Eventually, he left his kingdom and came face to face with people who were suffering, impoverished, and sick. The realization that not all people enjoyed life sent him on a journey for enlightenment. He meditated under a Bodhi tree until the morning of the 8th day of the 12th moon of the year. When he awoke from his mediation, he was enlightened, meaning that he believed that people suffered because they cling to temporary things. The practices and traditions of Bodhi day can be seen below:
- People decorate ficus trees with beads and lights.
- People wear ornaments symbolizing Buddha, Sangha, and Dharma.
- Some will take a day to reflect on the life of Buddha.
- Cookies in the shape of Bodhi trees are eaten.
A Bodhi tree similar to the one Siddhartha meditated under until he reached enlightenment.
Pancha Ganapati is a Hindu religious holiday that is celebrated from December 21st to 25th. Pancha Ganapati is also known as the Hindu Christmas. This holiday celebrates the five-faced Maha Ganapati, a form of Ganesha. This statue is worshipped for prosperity and glory. Each day children decorate the statue in their home in a different color. Each color represents one of his five rays of energy, called shaktis. Each day and its corresponding color can be seen in the table below:
|December 21 - Yellow || The color is thought to create love and harmony with immediate family members. Family members make amends and offer forgiveness to each other. |
|December 22 - Blue || This color is used to bring love and harmony to relatives, neighbors, and close friends. Gifts are presented and forgiveness is given and received. |
|December 23 - Red || This color is thought to create love and harmony with business associates and the public. Gifts are presented to customers and employees showing appreciation for their work. Debts and disputes among this group of people are also settled. |
|December 24 - Green || Green creates joy and harmony that comes from the arts such as dance and music. Children sing and dance, poems are spoken, and plays are watched. |
|December 25 - Orange || This final day and color bring love and harmony through faith and charitable acts. The great god Ganesha is thought to pour out his love and blessings on his people. |
Chanukah or Hanukkah
Chanukah, or Hanukkah, is an eight-day Jewish celebration dating to around 200 B.C in Judea. The celebration begins sometime between late November and late December. This celebration honors the miracle that occurred during the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Around this time, the Jewish people had driven the Syrian people out of Jerusalem. Judah told his people to cleanse the Second Temple (which had been desecrated), light the menorah, and rebuild the altar. There was only enough olive oil to keep the flame on the menorah burning for one day. Despite this, the flame continued burning for eight days. Jewish people commemorate this miracle in the celebration of Hanukkah.
Some Chanukah traditions and decorations can be seen below:
- One candle is added to a nine-branched menorah every night. The ninth candle is used to light the other candles.
- Potato pancakes and donuts are fried in oil to reflect the miracle of the oil in the temple.
- Gifts are exchanged.
- Children play with dreidels, a four-sided top.
An example of a four sided top called a dreidel. Children play with this during Hanukkah.
Secular Holidays in December
Secular holidays are celebrated without religious meaning. Some secular holidays celebrated in December are:
Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that is celebrated from December 26 to January 1. The holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966. Dr. Karenga based Kwanzaa on traditional African harvest festivals. This holiday honors the seven principles below:
- Unity or Umoja - an attempt to have harmony with the peoples and nations of the Earth
- Self Determination or Kujichagulia - to make a name and voice for oneself
- Cooperative Economics or Ujamaa - the building of businesses that will profit the community
- Collective Work and Responsibilty or Ujima - the development and care of the community and shared search for solutions to the communitys problems
- Purpose or Nia - care for the community in the hopes of restoring it to prominence
- Creativity or Kuumba - to do everything possible to leave the community better than it was before
- Faith or Imani - to believe in all community members and to celebrate victory over struggle
Families celebrating Kwanzaa use art, colorful African clothing, and fresh fruits to decorate their homes. Drinks are shared from a chalice known as a Kikombe cha Umoja. Symbols such as a candle holder with seven candlesticks, corn, a unity cup, and gifts are placed on a mkeka or mat. The corn represents children and the unity cup shows thanks to African ancestors. The seven candles that go into the candlesticks represent each of the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
This is a celebration of the ethnic holiday Kwanzaa.