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                                 HolidaysRecipesSportsWinter Holidays - Holidays associated with the Winter Season

Christmas: Also referred to as Christmas Day, Christmas is one of the most sacred Christian holidays celebrated on December 25 (or January 7) that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Houses are decorated with Christmas lights, Christmas trees and manger scenes depicting the birth of Christ. Santa Claus is a symbol. Hymns and carols are sung and gifts are exchanged. The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerst-misse, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceeding sacred vigil.

Junkanoo: A festival originating in the Bahamas when slaves were given freedom for three days around Christmas, it takes place between December 26 and January 1. It is a celebration where people wear masks and dance to music in the streets beginning at 2 am and ending at dawn.

Kwanzaa: A celebration of family community and culture that takes place from December 26 to January 1. It is an African American holiday that is focused on the seven principals of Unity, Faith, Creativity, Purpose, Cooperative Economies, Self-Determination, and Collective Work and Responsibility.

Chanukkah: Chanukah, Hanukkah, or other various spellings, due to transliteration from the Hebrew is an eight-night holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The celebration begins on 25 Kislev of the Hebrew calendar. A Chanukah Menorah or Chanukiah serves to hold candles or oil, lit successively or decreasingly, depending on school of thought, resulting in Chanukah often being referred to as the Festival of Lights. In the second century BCE (before current era) at the time of the Maccabean Revolt, only enough oil had been found to light the Temple Menorah for one night. The miracle of Chanukah is that the oil lasted for eight nights, allowing time for preparation of more ritual quality oil. Blessings are made each night at the time of lighting, reminding Jews of our blessings and responsibilities. Celebrations often include foods fried in oil like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly filled doughnuts) as well as games like dreidel or sevivon (a four sided spinning top).

St. Nicholas Day: Observed on December 6 and traditionally celebrated in Northern Europe. Children are taught that Santa Claus is actually St. Nicholas, a Fourth Century bishop known for his kindness. Children place shoes outside to be filled with gifts and treats.

Ganga Bois: A Vodoun (Voodoo) holiday celebrated in Haiti on December 10.

Advent: Advent is the beginning of the church year for most churches in the Western tradition. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (December 24). If Christmas Eve is a Sunday, it is counted as the fourth Sunday of Advent, with Christmas Eve beginning at sundown. The main color is purple, which represent royalty. Advent is a Christian holiday that can be celebrated in the home and/or in the church.

Three Kings Day: Takes place on January 6 (12 days after Christmas). This is a Christian holiday in Mexico where children receive gifts instead of on Christmas day. It is a celebration that commemorates the Biblical story of the three kings who followed the star of Bethlehem to bring gifts to the Christ child.

Eid-al-Adha: A three day feast that follows the Pilgrimage to Mecca. This is a Muslim holiday that begins on January 10. It commemorates Ibraham’s (Abraham) willingness to obey God by sacrificing his son, Ishmael. Muslims believe Ishmael is the forefather of the Arabs.

Lunar New Year: A holiday celebrated for two weeks by the Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese, it takes place during the first three days of the first lunar moon (late January or early February). People dress up in costumes and exchange food and gifts.

Bodhi Day: On December 8, Buddhists celebrate this day to commemorate the Enlightenment (bodhi) of Shakyamuni Buddha. This is the most important holiday to the Buddhists.

Japanese New Year: Celebrating the New Year is the biggest event in Japan. Omisoka is New Years Eve in Japan. People spend a great deal of time cleaning and shopping to prepare for the new year (much like spring cleaning in the United States) in order to get rid of the dirty past and start the new year fresh and clean. Shogatsu is the celebration that takes place on New Years day. People decorate their homes and give gifts of money and toys to children and greeting cards to family and friends.

Las Posadas: This holiday takes place December 16 to December 24 in Mexico. In English, it means “the Inn” and is a traditional Mexican festival which reenacts Joseph’s search for a room at the inn. Each Christmas season, a processional carrying a doll representing the Christ Child and images of Joseph and Mary riding a burro walks through the community streets.

World Religion Day: This holiday takes place on January 15 and is celebrated by those of the Baha’i religion. It originated in the United States and aims to foster the establishment of interfaith understanding and harmony by emphasizing the common denominators underlying all religions. The message of World Religion Day is that mankind, which has stemmed from one origin, must now strive towards the reconciliation of that which has been split up.

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