Explaining the various holidays celebrated in December

St.-Lucys-Day-Procession

Christmas
A Christian holiday and likely the most well-known in Canada, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus (while there is speculation of the actual date of Jesus’ birth, Dec. 25 became the widely accepted day of his birth). Some of the more contemporary customs of the Christmas holiday include putting up Christmas trees and decorating them with ornaments and lights. Also, what started many, many years ago as an advent wreath has evolved into advent calendars, oftentimes bought in stores where each day of December through till Christmas Eve, you can open to find a chocolate or some other treat. The character of “Santa Claus” is believed to fly in a sleigh (propelled by reindeer) throughout the whole world and deliver presents to kids by way of travelling down chimneys.

Hanukkah/Chanukah
This Jewish holiday is an eight day “Festival of Lights” celebration, this year starting on Dec. 2, and ending on the evening of Dec. 10. The word “Chanukah” means dedication, and the eight days celebrate the rededication of the Holy Temple. The origin of Hanukkah dates back thousands of years when the Holy Land was ruled by Syrian-Greeks, who tried to force the people of Israel to accept those beliefs. When a group of Jewish people defeated one of the Greek armies and drove them off the Holy Land, they reclaimed it as their own. After reclaiming their land, they went to light the Menorah, but only had a one day supply of oil to light it. The light, however, lasted for eight days. When celebrating Hanukkah, one flame is lit each night — with the middle of the nine lights total used to light the remaining eight, thus by this year on Dec. 10, all Menorah will have all lights kindled.

Kwanzaa
A celebration of African community, family and culture, Kwanzaa will begin (in Canada) on Dec. 26, and end on Jan. 1. The Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” means “first fruits of the harvest”. Those who celebrate Kwanzaa observe seven different principles — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, sense of purpose, creativity and faith. The colours associated with Kwanzaa are red, black and green. Along with the seven principles, there are seven symbols as well — the unity cup, the candle holder (holding seven candles), mazoa (fruits, nuts, and vegetables), the seven candles, mkeka (mat made of straw), ear of corn (placed on the mkeka for every child at the celebration), and zawadi (gifts — given out usually on Jan. 1).

St. Lucia Day
This is celebrated mainly in Sweden, Norway and also the Swedish speaking parts of Finland. The holiday falls on Dec. 13. The Festival of Lights celebration marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavian countries. Families have their oldest daughter dress in white, serving various foods and drinks to their families throughout the day.

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