Few months offer as many celebrations as December. With permission from and thanks to WorldStrides, here's a look at some of this month’s holidays from around the world.
Arguably the most widely known of December holidays, Christmas traditions vary around the world. While Americans celebrate with Christmas trees, visits from Santa Claus, and dreams of snowy landscapes, Christmas falls during Australia’s summer, where it is popular to go camping or to the beach over the holiday. Some Australians decorate a “Christmas Bush,” a native Australian tree with small green leaves and flowers that turn red during the summer.
In England, Christmas traditions are similar to those in the United States, but instead of leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus, children leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas.
In Iceland, capital city Reykjavik turns into a winter wonderland with its Christmas markets, and for the children there’s not one but thirteen Santas, known as Yule Lads. One arrives each night in the thirteen days before Christmas, leaving small gifts in shoes left in window sills.
Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish celebration that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt. Those who took part in the re-dedication witnessed what they believed to be a miracle. Even though there was only enough untainted oil to keep the menorah’s candles burning for a single day, the flames continued to burn for eight nights.
Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. Celebrations revolve around lighting the menorah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown. The ninth candle, called the shamash (helper), is used to light the others. Typically, blessings are recited and traditional Hanukkah foods such as potato pancakes (latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are fried in oil. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with dreidels and exchanging gifts.
Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. He founded US, a cultural organization, and researched African “first fruit” (harvest) celebrations. From there, he combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations to form the basis of Kwanzaa.
The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, families gather and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara, then one of the seven principles, values of African culture, is discussed. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31.
Only recognized in a few countries, Boxing Day originated in the United Kingdom during the Middle Ages and is celebrated on December 26. It is so named because it’s the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were opened and their content distributed, a tradition that still takes place in some areas. It was also the day servants were traditionally given the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families.
Boxing Day has now become a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, among other countries. In England, soccer matches and horse races often take place on Boxing Day.
The Irish refer to the holiday as St. Stephen’s Day, and they have their own tradition called hunting the wren in which boys fasten a fake wren to a pole and parade it through town. The Bahamas celebrate Boxing Day with a street parade and festival called Junkanoo.
However you and your family celebrate (or don’t) all of us at Tucker Law wish you every good thing.