Different Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

Season’s Greetings; Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Joyeux Noël, Happy Kwanzaa; Celebrate the Season; Warm Wishes – at this time of year there are so many different ways to wish loved ones the best during the holiday season. As one year comes to a close and we experience the start of a new year, it is both a time of celebration and reflection. We gather with our loved ones, spending time making memories. We live in a country that is greatly diversified, where individuals are free to celebrate in any way they see fit. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are three major celebrations that take place this time of year. While each of them share a different message, they all function similarly in bringing people together.


Christmas is a special time of the year for many people. What is interesting about Christmas is that it means different things for different individuals. For some it is a major religious holiday – they will partake in religious services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In certain religions, the holiday is a time for celebrating the birth of Jesus. For others, the holiday has religious undertones but in the modern era it has moved away from being a purely religious time. For Christmas, families and friends will typically gather, on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day, depending on tradition and logistics, share a meal, and exchange gifts. The meal for many families consists of a turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and other holiday fixings, followed up by a serving of pie, however each family modifies this menu to fit with their own traditions. Young children will wait expectantly for Santa Claus to deliver presents, often leaving a plate of cookies for him, and a bag of carrots for his reindeer.


Kwanzaa is a celebration honoring African heritage in African-American culture. As with other holidays, during Kwanzaa there are feasts to be had and presents to be exchanged. Kwanzaa is a newer holiday, it was first celebrated about 50 years ago (1967). Some of the main pillars of Kwanzaa are unity, creativity, and faith. For Kwanzaa, there are 7 Principles and 7 Primary Symbols, the number 7 emphasizes the values and ideals during the 7 days of Kwanzaa. During Kwanzaa individuals decorate their houses in rich colours and fresh fruits. It is a time for gathering with those who you cherish the most.


Hanukkah, or Chanukah is a Jewish holiday that occurs every winter. The Jewish faith follows a lunar calendar and as such the specific dates of Hanukkah change each year. It is a celebration of two miracles that occurred during the post biblical time period. Hanukah is referred to by many as the “Festival of Lights”. During Hanukkah individuals light a nine-branched Chanukiah, one candle for each of the eight days of Hanukkah, and one candle to light the rest. The reason for there being eight days of Hanukkah is in relation to one of the miracles of Hanukkah. In a temple that had previously been ransacked there was only enough oil to light the menorah for one day but miraculously it ended up lasting for eight days, which was exactly the time needed to produce more oil. The second way Hanukkah is celebrated is by eating lots of oily foods; latkes are a common delicious food to eat, these are often also referred to as a potato pancake, additionally on Hanukkah many people consume sufganiyah otherwise known as doughnuts. During Hanukkah, many kids partake in the game of Dreidel which involves a spinning top.

Fun Fact: A Christmas tree in a Jewish household is sometimes referred to as a Hanukkah Bush. 

Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah are not the only holidays that are celebrated this time of year. It is important to be open to learning about new and different ways of celebrating, and spending time with friends and family. No matter what you celebrate enjoy the season, warm wishes to you and those you love.


Happy holidays everyone!