Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah! Joyous Eid al-Adha! Wonderful Kwanzaa! Feliz Winter Solstice!

I looked up all the different holidays that are celebrated at this time of the year, and the results were overwhelming. Apparently, human beings have always looked for reasons to give one another gifts and eat special food around this cold time of the year.

First there was just the Winter Solstice itself, when cave men and women gathered closer to the fire and wondered if the sun would ever return. Too bad they didn’t have some marshmallows to toast over that fire.

Fast forward to the second century BCE, when Jews rose up in a successful revolt against Syrians who had been preventing their religious freedom. As they cleaned and reconsecrated their temple in Jerusalem, a tiny amount  of oil which was expected to last one day lasted eight days instead. Ever since, Jews have celebrated Hanukkah for the victory over oppression and for the miracle of the oil. That happened on the twenty-fifth day of the Hebrew month of Kislev, which falls on different days of December.

Later, the man named Jesus who was to become known as the Christ was born, probably not in December, but his birthday is celebrated on December twenty-fifth with gifts and decorated trees. Both the date and the trees harken back to winter solstice celebrations.

About four hundred years later, a man named Muhammed became known as The Prophet. His followers celebrate Eid al-Adha, “the Festival of Sacrifice,” which reflects on Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son upon God’s word. Muslims typically begin Eid al-Adha celebrations about 70 days after the end of Ramadan.

In the nineteenth century, during the height of Great Britain’s wide-reaching power, December twenty-sixth was established as Boxing Day, when gifts and money were given by the wealthy to their servants and to the needy.

Kwanzaa, the latest seasonal celebration, was created in 1966 by author and political activist Dr. Maulana Karenga to honor African heritage and culture. The name comes from a Swahili phrase meaning “fruits of the harvest” and is celebrated from December twenty-sixth through January first.

No matter what celebration is going on at your house, I hope it’s with those you love, I hope the food is yummy, and that it gives you a joyous feeling that will stay with you forever.

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2 thoughts on “Happy Holidays

  1. I was watching Sesame Street with my 22 month old grandson yesterday and they were showing all the different festive celebrations at this time of year. When they showed the family lighting the Hannukah candles he started singing the Happy Birthday song. He just recently went to his cousin’s birthday party and now thinks that everytime he sees candles it’s another birthday! I did my best to explain to him what Hannukah means and he listened quite attentively.

    My hope for him and all children is that they can learn how wonderful it is that we’re all the same and yet also different. Let us all pray for peace in our own way.

    Love & peace from Toronto, Canada. Goodwill to all.

    Margaret Ann

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