Happy Holidays – The Major Celebrations of the Festive Season
There are thousands of cultural festivals throughout the year, celebrated in all corners of the world. From the bright lights of Diwali to the costumes and candy of Halloween, however it’s the celebrations of December that take centre stage in the festive season.
Around the world, the holidays are celebrated in many different ways, with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas all falling during the last month of the year, before the New Year is welcomed in by worldwide celebrations on New Year’s Eve.
Hanukkah, also known as Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish Holiday which falls on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev, which usually falls sometime between late November and late December.
Historically, the events that inspired the modern festivity occurred approximately around 200 BC when Judea was under the control of Seleucid Kind of Syria, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who supposedly outlawed the Jewish religion, demanding they worship the Greek gods. In 168 BC, his soldiers massacred thousands of people and destroyed the city’s holy Second Temple by erecting an altar to Zeus. A large scale rebellion broke out in, and Judah Maccabee took the helm in 166 BC after his father, Jewish priest, Matthathias died, and within two years the Syrians were driven out of Jerusalem.
While supposedly rebuilding the Second Temple, there was apparently only enough untainted olive oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, even though the candles on the golden candelabra were supposed to be kept burning every night. Despite the lack of oil, the candles burned for eight nights, enough time for them to find a new supply. This event supposedly inspired the eight-day festival that is still celebrated in the modern times.
The rituals of Hanukkah include lighting the Menorah, a golden candelabra which holds nine candles, with one candle lit each of the eight nights of Hanukkah and the middle candle being use to light the others. Singing songs and reciting psalms are other traditions associated with the holiday.
With the predominance of Christian society, Hanukkah has slowly become more festive, and as a result many Jewish children receive gifts, usually one for each of the eight nights of the holiday.
Celebrated in communities in the United States, Canada and the Western African Diaspora in order to celebrate and honour African heritage in African-American culture, Kwanzaa is observed from the 26th of December until the 1st of January. The celebration was created by Maulana Karenga in 1966, after the Watts riots in Los Angeles when he wished to find a means to unite the African-American community.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase ‘matunda ya kwanza’ which means first fruits in Swahili. As an African and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the African community, it brings a cultural message which speaks best to what it means to be African and a human. Celebrations often include songs and dances, storytelling, poetry reading and African drums, with a large traditional meal and a feast and exchange of gifts as the celebration ends. Colourful household decorations with art and African cloth can adorn houses, and there is a candle lighting ceremony with a kinara, which is a candelabra with seven candles. On each of the seven nights, a candle is lit as the family gathers and discusses the principles of Kwanzaa, also called the Nguzo Saba. These principles are values of African culture which help to build community among the African-American peoples.
These seven principles were a set of ideals created by Dr Maulana Karanga, and each day of Kwanzaa focuses on a different principle. The Nguzo Saba of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
One of the most widely celebrated holidays of the year, Christmas traditionally falls on the 25th of December in order to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in the Christian religion. The celebration of Christmas around the world does fall on a variety days, with Russia. Serbia, Ethiopia and other countries celebrating on January 7th, and some other countries, such as Denmark, have the gift exchange on December 24th. As well as being a traditional religious holiday, Christmas is also a civil holiday in many countries around the world, meaning that is it a recognised public holiday.
Prior to Christmas being the designated day that Christians celebrated the birth of Christ, historically, many cultures celebrated in late December in recognition of the Winter Solstice. Prior to the rise of Christianity, Scandinavia, the Norse people celebrated Yule from the 21st of December through January, Germany honoured the Pagan god of Oden in December, and there were numerous festivals celebrated through the period in Rome.
When Christianity decided to establish a celebration of the birth of Christ, Pope Julius I chose the date of December 25th, with it believed that the date was chosen with the knowledge of the previous pagan festivals, with the hope to adapt and absorb those traditions. By the end of the eight century the celebration had spread to Egypt, England and Scandinavia.
It was not until the 19th century that Christmas was embraced in the United States, after English traditions had fallen out of practice as a result of the American Revolution. Inspired by the works of Washington Irving and Charles Dickens, Christmas became synonymous with good will and charity, and was embraced as a family holiday. It was as the American’s began to embrace the celebration that old customs emerged, and the modern celebration of Christmas was built around these ideas.
Today Christmas is celebrated through the decoration of trees, with lights and ornaments, as well as ‘decking the halls’ with holly and mistletoe, singing carols, and waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus to deliver presents to good children on the morning of December 25th. It also involves sending cards and giving gifts to family and friends. While it is still a Christian celebration, with many people attending church services, it can also be celebrated by though who don’t actively practice Christianity.
Regardless of whether you celebrate one of the above, or something else this holiday season, Pendragon Management would like to wish you a happy holiday, and we look forward to working with you in the New Year.