All of the holidays in December that you know about… and don’t?
Sure everybody knows about Christmas, and most people have heard about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. But did you know there are 7 official holidays in December, and do you know the history of each of them? You’ll know (at least a brief history) after reading this.
Dec. 05-06: St. Nicholas Eve/St. Nicholas Day
This is a holiday celebrated mostly in Europe and is held in honor of St. Nicholas. The holiday is like Christmas, but focuses more on children. The children leave their shoes (filled with carrots and sugar cubes) by the fireplace, and leave a cup of coffee for Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas (the parents/guardians), then replace the carrots and sugar cubes with gifts for the children. When the children grow up, they celebrate Christmas instead.
Dec. 08: Bodhi Day
This holiday is celebrated in both Japan and China, but is referred to as the Laba Festival in China. According to web-holidays.com, the celebration is held in honor of the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama. The practices of the holiday include meditating, “...studying the Dharma, chanting Buddhist texts, and/or performing kind acts towards others. Some Buddhists celebrate with a traditional meal of tea and cake.”
Dec. 13: Santa Lucia Day
Santa Lucia Day is celebrated primarily in Italy, where christians honor the life of Santa Lucia, a young girl who was killed in the 4th century during the persecution of christians. The holiday is similar to St. Nicholas Day, children are told Santa Lucia will come with her donkey and leave gifts for them, in return the children leave coffee for Santa Lucia and flour for the donkey. According to web-holidays.com, the holiday is also well celebrated in Sweden, Finland, and Norway.
Dec. 18-Dec. 26: Hanukkah
As a non-Jewish person, this is the most recognizable Jewish holiday, but by many accounts it is not the most important to the Jewish people. It is likely known because of how close its dates are to Christmas. The word Chanukah means “dedication” and the festivities are held in honor of the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. One candle is lit for each of the 8 days of Hanukkah. According to web-holidays, a favorite past-time during this celebration is spinning the dreidel, a game based on old German gambling games.
Dec. 21: Yule
According to web-holidays.com, Yule has been celebrated since the 4th century. It begins during the winter solstice (usually around Dec. 21), and lasts 12 days. The traditions and customs include: bonfires, crops and trees wassailed (cider poured on/around them), evergreen boughs and holly hung up as decorations, hanging mistletoe, and the Yule log burns through the night. Many of these traditions and customs have now been adopted and are used in Christmas celebrations.
Dec. 24-25: Christmas Eve/Christmas
Christmas is the most widespread of the holidays in December. It is held to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Although some believe it has been celebrated since 98 CE, an official date was not given until 350 CE. The traditions are likely familiar to everyone, but include Santa Clause, Christmas trees, ornaments, lights, and other vibrant decorations. Christmas is very well known as a time of giving and sees many families and friends get together to give gifts.
Dec. 26-Jan. 1: Kwanzaa
According to web-holiday.com, Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday celebrating black heritage and was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “Mantunde ya kwanza”, a Swahili phrase which translates to “the first fruits”. According to the website this is how the holiday is celebrated, “Families and friends gather at meal time. The unity cup is passed from person to person with each one saying something positive about the African-American community.”
That’s all for the holidays celebrated in December, unless you want to count New Years Eve. Hopefully everyone reading this, no matter which celebration they take part in, has a great month celebrating family, heritage, and unity.