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Celebrating the Holidays

Celebrating the Holidays
Posted on December 6, 2018 by CHS

During the winter season there are several holidays that can be celebrated. For many people, celebrating the holidays is a way to connect with the traditions of their family, culture, or religion. Other people see the holidays as an opportunity to relax and enjoy spending time with their family and friends. However you choose to celebrate the holidays, the traditions and time spent together with family will help your child develop an understanding of your family’s beliefs and customs.

Holiday celebrations give children the chance to listen to family stories, taste special recipes that have been handed down, and visit with people they may not see very often. All of these experiences help children develop their own identity of where they came from, who they are, and who they want to be. Children also learn to appreciate their family and develop relationships with the people who will give them love, support, and guidance as they grow.

In addition to your own celebrations, it can be fun and educational to learn about the holiday traditions of other people. Children may hear their friends talk about their own celebrations at school and wonder about how others celebrate. Learning about how others celebrate the holidays can build your child’s tolerance, appreciation, and understanding for the similarities, differences, and uniqueness of others.

As you explore different winter holidays with your child, point out and discuss the similarities and differences between them. For example, one thing all the celebrations have in common is the use of light. You can discuss the different forms of light (candles, strings of lights) and how they are used. The following is a brief summary of the most widely celebrated winter holidays with a list of resources for learning more below.

Hanukkah (Chanukah)
Around 200 B.C. the king of Syria, tried to abolish the Jewish religion. The Jewish priest Judah Maccabee led a rebellion that drove them out. They cleansed the Holy Temple and rededicated it by relighting the menorah, or lamp. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means “dedication” and it is known as the Festival of Lights. It is celebrated for eight days and nights in remembrance of when the menorah was once again lit. Each night one candle of the menorah is lit, and children play with a dreidel (spinning top game of chance) to win gelt (gold chocolate-filled “coins”), sing traditional songs, and enjoy special foods such as latkes (potato cakes) and sufganiyot (jelly filled doughnuts). In 2018, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 2nd and ends at sundown on December 10th.

Christmas
Christmas is celebrated in different ways all over the world. There are religious groups that celebrate Christmas on December 25th as the birth of Christ, but there are also various legends about Santa Claus distributing gifts. In the United States, you will see decorations such as Christmas trees, strings of lights on houses, poinsettia plants, sleighs, reindeer, candles, and Santa Claus. Children are told that Santa Claus delivers gifts on Christmas Eve for them to open Christmas morning. Families and friends usually exchange gifts as well.

Christian religions often have pageants, festivals, or musical performances at their churches to celebrate December 25th as the day Christ was born. Religious households may use decorations such as nativity scenes with mangers and sheep or angels. In Mexico and other Latin American countries families or communities host Las Posadas, where participants re-enact the events surrounding the birth of Christ. Religious ceremonies for Christmas often vary within the different Christian religions.

Kwanzaa
After the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Maulana Karenga looked for ways to create a stronger sense of community among African Americans. In 1966, Dr. Karenga combined several different African harvest celebrations to create Kwanzaa. The word Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” (first fruits). Kwanzaa is celebrated for the last seven nights of the year. Each night a candle on the kinara (candle holder) is lit and one of the seven community values is discussed. The seven values and symbols of Kwanzaa reflect the principles of the African culture for building and strengthening community. The Karamu (feast) is held on December 31st and Kwanzaa ends on January 1st.

The New Year
In the United States and many other countries, people celebrate the beginning of the New Year on New Year’s Eve (December 31st). On New Year’s Eve, there are parties and celebrations that last until midnight when the New Year officially begins. On New Year’s Day (January 1st) people have a celebration dinner together. Families usually have their own traditions for how to celebrate the New Year. For example, many people in the United States believe that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day will bring you luck for the year, or that eating green vegetables will bring you prosperity. Whatever your traditions are, share them with your children!

References and Resources

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