In the United States, December is a month for celebration! We celebrate the holidays with friends and family and enjoy everything else the season brings. December at Agora is also about personalization and celebrating the traits that make us special. Every one of us is different and we all have our own unique personalities that make us who we are and impact the decisions we make.
We all celebrate differently as well, and whether for religious or cultural reasons one similarity remains the same, those beliefs and values make us who we are. As part of our December series, we want to guide you through holiday celebrations that happen throughout the month of December across different cultures; and we hope to give you a better understanding of why others celebrate this time of year. Thanks to the endless TV commercials, we all know about Christmas but read on to discover just a few of the many other celebrations happening around the globe:
HANUKKAH: Dec. 6-14, 2015
Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is a Jewish tradition that celebrates the Maccabees victory over the Greek/Syrian forces, as well as the reclamation of their Temple and the miracle of the menorah burning for eight days when there was only enough oil to last for one. It is celebrated on the 25th of Kislev on the Jewish calendar, but this date varies from year to year on our calendar. Jewish families place a menorah (a candelabra holding nine candles, one for each of the eight days of Hanukkah and an extra candle to light the others) in their windows to commemorate the miracle. Each night of Hanukkah families light one candle and offer up their prayers to God, they also exchange gifts and celebrate with traditional Jewish feasts.
KWANZAA: Dec. 26, 2015 - Jan. 1, 2016
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that takes place over the course of seven days to celebrate and embrace the values of African culture. Kwanzaa is derived from “the first fruits” harvests in ancient Africa and is considered a cultural holiday which means it can be celebrated by people from all different religious backgrounds. Kwanzaa is guided by seven principles (unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith), as well as seven symbols (the crops, the mat, the candle holder, the corn, the seven candles, the unity cup, and the gifts.) During Kwanzaa on Dec. 31, families exchange gifts and celebrate with a large dinner with food from different African cultures.
OMISOKA: Dec. 31, 2015
Omisoka is the Japanese New Year. It is celebrated at the same time we celebrate New Year’s Eve in the United States. Residents of Japan spend all day cleaning out there houses as a symbol of starting fresh in the New Year. They celebrate by eating a large dinner with friends and family and eat toshikoshi-soba, or noodles, which is believed to suggest a long-life. Many citizens will go out and celebrate, much like they do in the United States. At midnight the Temple bells chime which is a symbol of the human desires that cause suffering.
LAS POSADAS: Dec. 16-24, 2015
Las Posadas is a religious holiday throughout Mexico, Spain, and parts of the United States that takes place over the nine days before Christmas. Las Posadas is a recreation of the journey Mary and Joseph took to Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus. The procession begins at church and then proceeds around the town. Las Posadas concludes with a mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a feast and a piñata party for the children.
LUCIA DAY: Dec. 13, 2015
St. Lucia Day is celebrated in most Scandinavian countries and commemorates St. Lucia who was killed by the Romans for her religious beliefs. The Christmas season begins with St. Lucia day and is celebrated with a festival where young girls dress in white gowns, red sashes, and crowns of candles singing songs around the town. Each family also designates their own St. Lucia who will serve traditional food and beverages to family members and guests throughout the day which symbolizes the story of St. Lucia who served food to persecuted Christians banished to the Catacombs in Rome.
NICHOLAS DAY: Dec. 6, 2015
St. Nicholas Day commemorates St. Nicholas, the Patron Saint of Children, who was known for his generosity and giving gifts to the need. St. Nicholas Day is celebrated across many different European countries with each country celebrating in different ways. However, the similarities remain, children place their shows out for St. Nicholas on the eve of December 5. In the morning well-behaved children wake up to find treats and small presents, while the naughty children wake up to coal. Our traditions and stories of Santa Claus are believed to be derived from the story of St. Nicholas.
FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY: Jan. 6, 2016
The Feast of the Epiphany, sometimes referred to as Three Kings Day, celebrates the arrival of the three Wise Men’s into Bethlehem to bring gifts to the baby Jesus. Many different countries across the world celebrate this day with large dinners with family and friends, festivals, and in some countries (such as Italy and Spain) it is the major day for gift giving!
What holidays are you going to celebrate this December? We’d love to hear from you, let us know in the comment section below and keep checking back to the myAgora Blog for more holiday related fun!