By Lesli Baker
Happy Holidays! There are many holidays this time of year!
I thought that I might share a few with you, as each of our valuable YMCA members may observe a holiday different from each other! A wonderful way to celebrate our diverse community to know and appreciate the Traditions of our neighbors.
Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish celebration that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt. Those who took part in the re-dedication witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued to burn for eight straight nights.
Hanukkah celebrations revolve around lighting the menorah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown. The ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others. Typically, blessings are recited and traditional Hanukkah foods such as potato pancakes (latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are fried in oil. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with dreidels and exchanging gifts.
The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, families gather and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara, then one of the seven principles, values of African culture, is discussed. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.
In the Christian faith, Christmas is the historical celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether celebrated for this religious reason or solely as a cultural celebration, Christmas traditions vary around the world. Americans celebrate with Christmas trees, visits from Santa Claus, and dreams of snowy landscapes.
Other Days of Interest
Other days of interest that are observed in December are:
Dec 1 – World AIDS Day
Dec 2 – International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
Dec 5 – International Volunteer Day
Dec 7 – Pearl Harbor Day of Remembrance
Dec 10 – International Animal Rights Day
Dec 13 – St. Lucia Day
Dec 18 – International Migrants Day
Dec 21 – Winter Solstice
Dec 21 – National Homeless Persons Remembrance Day
Dec 31 – World Peace Meditation Day