There are dozens of holidays observed between Halloween and New Year: Diwali, Thanksgiving, St. Nicholas Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Solstice, Christmas, New Year’s Eve. The glittering gold and silver or the season go all the way back to Nordic, Celtic, and Roman festivities. Early Christians absorbed the pagan traditions of lighting candles, decorating trees, and giving presents. The holiday season is a perfect time to learn about other cultures by celebrating their holidays.
Festivals of Light: One of the common themes of these winter holidays is the festival of lights. Every culture in the northern hemisphere celebrates the season of long dark nights and the Winter Solstice by lighting up our own magical, colorful lights, be it candles or twinkling strings of LED bulbs. Explain the rotation of the planet and the change of the seasons by going outside to watch the sunset and the moon rise on the shortest day of the year.
Hanukkah: Make a menorah, the eight candles that honor the miracle of the oil lasting eight days: read the Hanukkah story! Teach your child to play the dreidel game. It’s a wonderful tale of resilience and miracles.
St. Nicholas Day: Put out shoes on St. Nicholas Day (December 6). A German holiday, it celebrates the fourth-century patron saint of children from Asia Minor, St. Nicholas. Children put out their shoes or stockings on the night of December 5 in hopes that St. Nick will come by on his white horse and fill them with treats and small toys.
Kwanzaa: Wear red, black and green for Kwanzaa, a celebration of the African Diaspora is observed from December 26 to January 1. Like Hanukka, it’s centered around lighting one candle a day: here there are seven candles, that represent unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia), cooperative economics (Ujamaa), and creativity (Kuumba).
Whatever holiday your family celebrates, you are joining the rest of the world in celebrating family, friends, love, peace, and bringing the light (literally and figuratively) back into our world.