As the holiday season gears up, we would like to wish all of you much joy. What a blessing to live in a country where so many different cultures can feel free to celebrate whichever holiday they wish. It is also lucky to have so many different groups that enrich our society with their colourful festivities. Here are some of the different holidays happening this month, and a bit of history behind them.
Most know of Christmas taking place on December 24th and 25th, but there are more days considered special during the holiday.
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” have a lot of folklore and a fun song attached to them, but the phrase actually refers to the 12 days starting December 25th, beginning with the birth of Jesus Christ to the Epiphany, January 6th. The Eastern Orthodox Church considers the final day to be the most important, and this is when their communities exchange gifts.
This year, Hanukkah is celebrated from the 12th to the 20th of December.
This eight day Jewish celebration marks the re-dedication of the second temple in Jerusalem during the second century BC. Jews had risen to defeat their oppressors, and once again gained control of their own temple. Today, candles lit eight days in a row symbolize the container of oil found in the temple that was used to light their “menorah” (candelabra) at the re-dedication. The oil was only supposed to be sufficient for one day, but miraculously lasted for eight.
Songs, chocolate and games are all part of this family celebration.
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 as a celebration honouring African heritage in African-American culture. The week long holiday is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st, when there is a feast and gift giving. Families who are celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their homes with colourful African art, and shared libations are part of the festivities. There is a candle lighting ceremony for seven days, and respect and gratitude are given to ancestors. The greeting for this holiday is “Joyous Kwanzaa”.
Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe
This Day celebrated on December 12th is a public holiday in Mexico, and is a Catholic festival commemorating the belief that the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico City on December 9th and 12th, 1531. This religious festival is celebrated by Mexicans and Catholics around the world, who converge to pray. Children dress in costumes during this festival, and are blessed in churches.
St. Lucia’s Day
Celebrated in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Bosnia, Croatia, and Swedish speaking regions of Finland, this is known as the Festival of Lights. On December 13th, people honour St. Lucia, who was one of the first Christian martyrs, killed in 304 AD because of her religious beliefs. This day marks the beginning of Christmas. During the festivities, a girl dresses in a white dress with a red sash around her waist, and a crown of candles. There is a procession with songs, children light candles, and treats are shared.
This modern winter holiday (created in 1985 as a Hindu alternative to December holidays like Christmas) is celebrated by some Hindus and takes place between December 21st and 25th. Family members get together to repair past mistakes and bring joy into their lives. Outings, picnics, cards and gifts are all part of this family festival of giving. Shrines and a statue of the Lord Ganesha are placed in living rooms and are decorated. Ganesha is one of Hindu’s best known and worshiped deities. Offerings of treats are provided and then shared on each of the five days.
This celebration is very special to the Japanese, and is celebrated at the same time as New Year’s Eve. People gear up to December 31st by purifying their homes and removing clutter. There is a big feast with family and friends. People go out to celebrate or stay home to watch a national talent show on TV. They also visit Shinto Shrines at midnight.
December 25th is a national holiday in Pakistan, known as Quaid-e-Azam, which commemorates the birthday of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who who founded Pakistan. His birthday is a national celebration and holiday in Pakistan.
December seems to have much significance for so many different cultures, and we keep discovering more and more reasons why this is such a special time for so many. We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season, no matter where you happen to be, and no matter which holiday you celebrate.