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Published on December 1st, 2019 | by The Local Staff

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A Month of Celebrations

With the amount of Santa visits, ugly sweater parties and Christmas celebrations, it would seem like Christmas is every day of December–except for that limbo period after Christmas where everyone waits for New Years. Given that we live in the United States and in the South, it makes sense that the Christian holiday is almost synonymous with December. But aside from “Merry Christmas” there is also “Happy Holidays.” So let’s see what those other happy holidays are about!

Boxing Day is on Dec. 26th , and this celebration is mainly celebrated in the United Kingdom and in other countries influenced by the British empire. Most people agree that this holiday started by opening the collection boxes for the poor the day after Christmas and sharing the contents inside. Now Boxers Day is celebrated by sharing drinks with friends, watching football (soccer) and eating leftovers.

Kwanzaa is a seven day holiday that celebrates African culture in the United States. This holiday also starts Dec. 26th and lasts till Jan. 1st. This holiday was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga after the Watts Riot and was inspired by his research of African first fruits harvest celebrations. On the sixth day, Karamu is held–which is a huge feast. Each night a candle on the Kinara is lit to honor one of the seven values in African culture. 

Ōmisoka is Japan’s New Year celebration. It is celebrated on the final day of the old year and is dedicated to finishing the old year before the new one starts. Most people will spend Dec 31st cleaning, repaying debts and purifying bad spirits and luck. In the last hour of the old year, people will come together to share a meal of toshikoshi soba or toshikoshi udon and will visit a shrine or temple. At many of the Buddhist temples, large cast bells are struck once for each of the 108 earthly desires that cause human suffering. 

Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is an eight day Jewish holiday that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt. There was only enough untainted oil left in the temple to light the menorah for one night, but the flames lasted for eight days. This holiday starts the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. Each night a candle is added to the menorah, blessings are said, dreidel games are played and fried foods are enjoyed in remembrance of the oil miracle. 

Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year, is celebrated in many Asian countries, especially those with Chinese influences. This Lunar New Year is the Year of the Rat! It is celebrated for fifteen days at the beginning of the new year and marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. People will do a deep cleaning of their house to prepare for the new year and decorate houses with red paper-cuts and couplets that are designed with symbols for wealth, good luck and longevity. Dumplings are a main dish in these festivities. Children will get little red envelopes filled with money and light fireworks to celebrate the new year!

Las Posadas is a holiday celebrated in Latin America that begins Dec. 16th and ends Dec. 24th. This holiday honors the journey that Mary and Joseph made as they searched for a place to rest. Traditional observance consists of reciting prayers and copying Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage until the third door (whether a door in your house, a neighbor’s or a church) is opened and is celebrated with songs and sparklers. This is also often done as a part of a larger parade and an equally large celebration with pinatas. Tacos, tamales and ponche are enjoyed as a part of a feast. 

There are still many more celebrations out there and many variations of the holidays listed above as each country celebrates in its own unique way. Across the globe, winter is used as a time to remind people of the blessings in their lives, share feasts and gifts with one another, and purify houses and lives before the new year begins. Regardless of what or how you celebrate, December is a month destined to bring people together through the cold nights!

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