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Christmas and Other Winter Holidays

Nov 28, 2007
For Christians in America, December 25th is probably the most important holiday of the winter season. Even for those who celebrate Christmas in a more secular way, with the emphasis on gift-giving, parties and Santa Claus, Christmas is probably the top winter holiday. They decorate their yards, their houses and their Christmas trees and gather to celebrate family tradition. Some of those traditions might include special foods, hanging stockings for the children or making a trip to see Santa at the mall, where the children can have their picture taken every year.

Christmas is definitely a major holiday in the US and in most of the world, but it's not the only holiday that is celebrated in the colder months. Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice are three holidays which many people observe.

Kwanzaa, based on traditional African "First Fruits" festivals, runs from December 26th through January 1st. It's a time for families to reaffirm their commitment to each other, to gather for communal meals and honor African- American traditions. Children are encouraged to participate and elders and ancestors are acknowledged.

Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday, follows the Hebrew calendar, but usually falls in December. It is also called "The Festival of Lights" and commemorates the Maccabee Rebellion, when the Temple Menorah was miraculously rekindled for eight days from one container of oil that should only have lasted for one day. Some Hanukkah customs include gifts of gelt (gold) coins or dreidels (tops) to children, lighting candles and saying blessings each night and extra services at the Temple.

The Winter Solstice, around December 21st or 22nd, is the shortest day (or longest night) of the year. There are many holidays that occur around this date, probably because it has been celebrated since the dawn of time. In dark midwinter, humans have always gathered for mutual protection and have sought light, food and warmth. During these festivals, candles and fires are lit to signify and reassure that the light of the sun will return.

Although these winter holidays are all different, they have some things in common. They are all based on tradition. They all celebrate family, food, festivities and good fellowship. Christmas and Hanukkah celebrate faith also and religious tradition. Kwanzaa is a link to the past for African- Americans and a way to honor their ancestral connection to Africa. The Winter Solstice is an earth-centered tradition whose beginnings are shrouded in the mists of human history.

In the dark days of winter, when the sun sets early and the winds blow snow against our windows, people gather to celebrate. They seek what humans have always sought in winter: light, warmth, food and human companionship.
About the Author
Lill Hawkins blogs about resources for finding safe toys for Toddlers to Teens and maintains a recall list at How to Find Safe Toys
Check in daily for the latest toy and sports equipment related recalls and a long list of alternative to blah big-box gifts.
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