It’s a month of celebrations!
Most people tend to associate December with the big guy in the red suit, but there are actually a number of different religious and cultural celebrations happening this month. In the spirit of community building, we thought it would be fun to highlight some of the other interesting celebrations happening throughout the month of December.
Omisoka—Japanese New Year’s Eve. Celebrated on December 31, Omisoka is the second most important day in Japanese tradition. People gather at 11:00 p.m. to enjoy one last bowl of long noodles, associated with “crossing over from one year to the next”, and listen to temple bells tolling 108 times at midnight, once for each of the 108 earthly desires thought to cause human suffering.1
Hanukkah. This Jewish celebration commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple following the Maccabees victory over King Antiochus, who refused to allow Jews to practice their religion.2 For eight nights, Hanukkah is celebrated with prayer, the lighting of the menorah, special recipes (like these featured on the Food Network) and often small gifts.
Kwanzaa. This weeklong celebration of African heritage begins on December 26. Family and friends gather to exchange gifts and light a series of black, red, and green candles which symbolize the seven basic values of the African American family: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.3
Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. An increasingly popular Catholic feast day, especially amongst Americans of Mexican decent, it is a day set aside to pay tribute to Jesus’ mother, Mary. It honors the belief that Mary, who is Mexico’s patron saint, appeared to a peasant man in Mexico City twice in 1851.
Boxing Day. Recognized in Canada, Australia, The United Kingdom, and some other Commonwealth countries, Boxing Day got its name because it was traditionally the day when servants and tradesmen would receive a gift—known as a “Christmas box”—from their employers or superiors. It is now a statutory holiday celebrated on December 26, and also a popular day to hit the stores for a little bargain hunting.5
While Christmas always honors the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25, it is often celebrated in different ways around the world.
In some parts of Germany, instead of writing letters to Santa Claus, little children write to “Christkind”—a little girl often described as having Christ-like qualities.6 In Denmark, children believe it’s the “Julemanden” (Christmas man) who brings their presents. He looks a little like Santa Claus, complete with reindeer, but he also likes rice pudding and lives in Greenland!7 In Pakistan, Santa Claus is known as “Christmas Baba”, and he delivers presents from a horse and cart.8
Christmas foods vary from place to place too! While English families may enjoy a standing rib roast with Yorkshire puddings on Christmas day , Italian families might tuck into a delicious Lasagna alla Bolognese or Brasato—braised beef in Barolo wine sauce. Cod is usually on a Portuguese family’s Christmas Eve table, while Irish families are likely to enjoy roast goose with plum pudding for desert on Christmas day.
What family traditions do you and yours enjoy each year during the holidays? Visit us on Facebook and share your special holiday-time rituals, recipes and memories with other Foresters members.
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