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