The U.S. is home to many different cultures and traditions brought here by both our immigrant ancestors and those who have recently arrived. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share some background on some of the big holiday traditions that you might observe in these coming weeks. In addition, we will share and explore more about holiday celebrations around the world.
Hanukkah (December 8-16)
Hanukkah is a holiday tradition observed by the Jewish community. It’s known as the celebration of lights, and according to history this occasion commemorates a victory the Jews had in 165 BC in a battle with the Syrians.
After the battle, wanting to rededicate the temple, a single bottle of oil was found to light the Menorah, which would normally last only one night. It was a miracle, but this bottle lasted for eight nights until oil could be properly made to dedicate the temple.
The Menorah is lit, one candle per night, to acknowledge the events when the Hebrews made right with God.
Christmas (December 25)
The word Christmas is a contraction of Christ’s Mass, derived from the Old English Crīstesmæsse, meaning “Christ’s Mass”. It is often abbreviated Xmas, probably because X resembles the Greek letter “chi” which has often historically been used as an abbreviation for Christ.
Christmas is celebrated in many parts of the world in many different ways. I was surprised in my research to learn that even the date of the Christmas holiday season is not the same everywhere in the world. Most people in the Western countries celebrate it on December 25th while others may celebrate it January 7th.
Of course, here in the U.S., Santa Claus delivers gifts to children during the late evening and overnight hours on the evening of December 24.
Kwanza (December 26 thru January 1)
Kwanzaa is an African American/Pan-African celebration observed from December 26 through January 1, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966 as the first specifically African-American holiday. Karenga said his goal was to “give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society.”
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:
- Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves stand up.
- 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 God, our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
What holiday traditions do you celebrate?
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