Lights, and Candles, and Santa Oh My

Cultural Holidays in December

Carly Bleth, Student Writer

December means holidays are right around the corner for many people around the globe. While there are many celebrations that take place this month today the focus is on Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Each of these holidays have such interesting backgrounds and beautiful traditions.

Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration originating in the 2nd century BCE. It is an eight-day celebration beginning on the 25th day of Kislev the Jewish month. The holiday usually falls in November or December. This year it will begin the night of Sunday December 18th and end the night of Monday December 26th. Hanukkah is often called the Festival of Lights as it is celebrated by the lighting of the menorah. The menorah used during Hanukkah consists of 9 branches, one for each day of celebration, and one for the helper. The helper candle is used to light the other candles after the blessing has taken place. Other traditions include games, gifts, and traditional food.

More than 160 countries around the world celebrate Christmas. It was originated as a Christian holiday, but it is now celebrated by 2 billion people around the globe. It takes place on the 25th of December although many also celebrate Christmas Eve on December 24th. Traditions include setting up a Christmas tree, hanging up stockings, baking treats, and exchanging gifts. Of course, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa Claus. He is quite famous appearing globally at different Christmas events, and locally at West Acres Mall, and the Red River Zoo. He has even starred in a few books and movies. Some will even leave cookies and milk for Santa along with carrots for his 12 reindeer on Christmas Eve.

Kwanzaa is one of the most recent holidays established in 1960s. It is a week-long celebration beginning December 26th and ending January 1st. The word Kwanzaa comes from “matunda ya kwanza” the Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits”. While Hanukkah and Christmas are both religious based holidays Kwanzaa is “a cultural one with inherent spiritual quality” as stated by Maulana Karenga creator of the holiday. Its intentions are to not only unite but empower the African American community. This is a holiday not only celebrated by African Americans of all religions, but is also open to celebration from all races and ethnicities according to Karenga. Those who celebrate Kwanzaa often also celebrate Christmas. It is centered around seven symbols and seven principals. One of the symbols are the seven candles. One candle is black representing those of African descent, three are red to represent struggle, and three are green to represent the land and hope for the future.