Christmas Isn't the Only Celebration This Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! We have made it to the last month of 2016 and it sure has been a crazy ride. Ever since Thanksgiving Break, us college students have been anxiously waiting for the semester to be over so we can go on Winter Break. However, winter is full of holidays and while Christmas is definitely a big one, it sometimes overshadows other celebrations. We’d like to take this time to spotlight other national and international holidays that will be happening in the coming months!

Christmas

Christmas, celebrated on December 25th, is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is celebrated in many countries around the world. In the United States, Christmas brings together traditions and customs from other countries and cultures. On Christmas Eve, many people attend church for midnight mass with their families. Other Christmas Eve traditions include the lighting of the Christmas tree, caroling with friends and family, and wrapping and exchanging of gifts. Christmas also includes legendary gift-bearing figures such as Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas, who deliver gifts all around the world on Christmas Eve for children to wake up to under their Christmas tree on Christmas day. 

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a holiday celebrated by those of the Jewish faith. It is a holiday honoring the Maccabees's victory over King Antiochus, who forbade Jews to practice their religion. Hanukkah is celebrated over the span of eight nights with prayer, the lighting of the menorah, and food. The menorah holds nine candles, a candle for each night of Hanukkah and a middle candle used to light the other eight. This year, Hanukkah will begin on December 24th and extend through January 1st. Hanukkah customs include eating foods fried in oil, such as Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiots (doughnuts), playing with dreidels (a spinning top), and giving gifts and money to the children. 

Winter Solstice

The winter solstice, which usually happens around the 20th, 21st, 22nd, or 23rd in the Northern Hemisphere, is the shortest day during the whole year. It has astronomical significance, as it marks the beginning of shortening nights and lengthening days. The interpretation of this event varies worldwide, but there are many things in common. Midwinter has been a significant time of ritual, reflection, and renewal for many cultures from the ancient Egyptians and Celts to the Hopi.

Kwanzaa

"Joyous Kwanzaa" is the Kwanzaa greeting. Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st. This is a secular holiday that commemorates African heritage. During this time, friends and families get together to exchange gifts and light a series of black, green, and red candles. These candles symbolize the seven basic values of African-American family life: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Families decorate their homes with objects of art, traditional African cloths, and fresh fruit. There are also ceremonies held at home, which may include drumming and musical selections, libations, reflection on the Pan-African colors, a ritual in which the seven black, green and red candles are lit, artistic performance, or even a feast.

The Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year falls on different days between January 21st and February 20th each year. The next Chinese New Year will fall on Saturday, January 28th. 2017 will be the year of the monkey.  The Chinese New Year is the biggest and most important holiday for the Chinese. The celebration normally begins on New Year’s Eve and continues for fifteen days (until the middle of the first month of the year). People will usually clean their whole house in preparation so that they may receive the New Year in a tidy house. This is a great time for family reunions, shopping, giving gifts, launching fireworks, and planning for the coming year. The highlight of the celebration is a religious ceremony given in honor of heaven, earth, the family ancestors, and other gods. In modern China, some working professionals will be given seven days, including the weekend, off to celebrate. 

A common theme throughout most of these holidays is the concept of unity with family and friends to share in special and fun moments together. This time of year is also great to reminisce on your life for the past year and begin thinking about your goals and resolutions for the next year. Let us make 2017 a great year and happy holidays to you!