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How Do You Celebrate the Holidays?

December 2010
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It is the holiday season again, and a time for us to embrace the different ways people celebrate the holidays.

December 1-9

Hanukkah—Hanukkah or Chanukah is a Jewish celebration of light, purity, and spirituality. It started when the Greeks tried and failed to Hellenize the Israelites. The Greeks were driven from the Holy Land by a small number of Jews that took back the temple and needed to relight the temple’s menorah. They found only one container of uncontaminated oil; that oil burned for eight days.

To celebrate this miracle, Jews light one flame in the menorah the first night then add a flame each night until all are burning. They eat fried foods and play the dreidel.

December 7

Al-Hijra—Al-Hajra is the Islamic New Year. It recognizes when the Prophet Muhammad moved to Medina from Mecca and began the first Islamic state. It is recognized as the beginning of the union of faith and earthly life. This also unified the Arabic world by bringing tribes together on common ground. It is not as celebrated as some other holidays/festivals but is when people think about this event and make their goals for the coming year.

December 8

Bodhi Day—Bodhi Day is the recognition of when Gautama became Buddha. Gautama sat under a fig tree and said, “Even though the flesh falls from my bones and the bones themselves crack, I will not get up from this seat until I have attained supreme and perfect enlightenment.” First he gained a calm cleansing his body and mind of all things that would be considered bad or impure. He then focused and thought about all of his past actions from his current life and past lives that had led him to the point where he was able to sit beneath the tree and seek enlightenment. After that he found how lives were connected and how to end suffering with life based on the truth. By the end of the night when morning came, Gautama became Buddha and was finally able to share these truths with other people.

December 17

Gita Jayanti—Gita Jayanti marks the day of a brilliant flash of light that was a message of the Bhagavad Gita six thousand years ago. This light still illuminates the road to perfection for humanity.

December 21

Dong Zhi— Dong Zhi is what would be considered by Americans and Canadians as a Chinese Thanksgiving. Dong Zhi occurs when the harvest is finished and people are returning home from working in the fields. It is a common time for family reunions. In southern China, a common food is Tang Yuan or sticky rice balls often in a broth (sometimes a sweet broth). In northern China the more common food is dumplings stuffed with meat. Both foods are more often served hot than cold. This holiday also recognizes Yin and Yang the end of decreasing positive energy and the beginning of the growing positive energy.

December 21

Solstice—Solstice is when the Goddess gives birth to the Divine Sun child. Winter Solstice is when Pagans give gifts and is at the same time as when the Christians suggested that Christ was born, so they could convert more Pagans by allowing them to keep some of their religious holidays.

December 25

Christmas—Christmas as a Christian holiday is meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God. It became a popular secular holiday as well in the 1900’s for families to feast and give gifts.

December 26- January 1

Kwanzaa—Kwanzaa is the celebration of the family, community, and culture, celebrated by Africans throughout the world. Kwanza celebrates the Nguzo Saba or the Seven Principles. They are:

  1. Umoja – Unity. Family, community, nation and race creates unity, which, is the beginning of success.
  2. Kujichagula – Self-determination. Take responsibility for yourself and make your future.
  3. Ujima – Collective work and responsibility. Work with your community to make it and unify it.
  4. Ujamaa – Collective economics. Establish your own business; make it; maintain it.
  5. Nia – Purpose. Restore African peoples to their greatness. Honor your ancestors and your decendents.
  6. Kuumba – Creativity. Create a better community than what you received from past people.
  7. Imani – Faith. Believe in everybody, those in charge, your family, and the “righteousness of the African American struggle.”