A Closer Look at the Holiday Season

Part of building a culturally vibrant community is fostering the inclusion of many traditions and practices into our common awareness. The holiday season, for instance, is observed in many different ways; here are just a few examples:

  • Hanukkah [Chanukah] (December 10 – 18, 2020) – Hanukkah is an eight-day, wintertime ‘festival of lights’ celebrated within the Jewish faith. It commemorates the reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the miracle of a single day’s worth of oil providing eight days of light for the Temple’s Menorah. The festival is marked by nightly lightings of the menorah, the reciting of special blessings, singing of traditional songs, sharing of a meal, games, and gift giving. Learn more here.
  • Winter Solstice (December 21, 2020) – While the Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year, the Winter Solstice marks the shortest day. Also known as the Winter Equinox, the solstice is an astrological event that has been observed, celebrated, and marked by many cultures and peoples dating as far back as the Neolithic period. Solstice celebrations are common in many parts of the world, from Asia to South America, and across many cultural traditions with different meanings and significances. For many First Nations people, the Winter Solstice is part of the timeless cycle of the natural world, signaling the approach of longer days and warmer weather. Many spend the day in ceremony and prayer, feasting with family and community, and reflecting on the year that has passed while looking ahead.
  • Kwanzaa (December 26, 2020 – January 1, 2021) – Kwanzaa is an African American and pan-African holiday that celebrates family, community and culture. Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African Studies, it is a seven day cultural festival that organizes families and communities around the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles) of: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamma (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith). The festival is marked by feasts (Karamu), music, dance, poetry, and ends with a day of reflection and recommitment to the Seven Principles and other cultural values. Learn more here.

The reasons for December celebrations may be many and varied but there are still a lot of commonalities between them that connect us and make for a truly inclusive holiday season. The holidays may be muted compared to previous ones but the central theme of celebrating with family, friends and community, and reflecting on the good as we approach the end of the year remain a powerful message. Whatever reason you have for celebrating the holiday season, may it find you in good spirits, good health, and with hope and optimism in the coming year.