December Holidays and Traditions Reflect Our Diversity
December is a unique month of the year, with colder weather, vacation time for many of us and the opportunity to look back at the past year. It also brings the holiday season and its traditions — a time to celebrate with family and friends. At CoolSys, we are One Team made up of people from many cultures and backgrounds. Read on to learn some interesting facts about some of the December holidays.
December 18 to December 26, 2022 (dates vary each year)
Known as the festival of lights, Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday celebrated with a nightly lighting of candles in a holder called a menorah. (There are many different spellings for the name of the holiday, but in the U.S., it is typically spelled “Hanukkah” or “Chanukah.”) The Hebrew word for “dedication,” Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple. The menorah features nine candles, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to light the other eight. One flame is lit on the first night. On the second night, an additional candle is lit. This continues till the eighth night of Hanukkah, when all eight candles are lit. During these eight nights, it’s customary to eat foods fried in oil. Traditional Hanukkah foods include potato latke (pancake), garnished with applesauce or sour cream, and jelly-filled sufganya (doughnut).
Another tradition of Hanukkah is the dreidel, a toy spinning top with four sides. Each side is labeled with a Hebrew letter — nun, gimel, hei and shin — which represent an acronym for a Jewish phrase that means “A miracle happened there.” To play the game, each player wagers coins, nuts, candy or some other prize. How much of the pot you claim depends on which side the dreidel lands on when you spin it.
December 26 to January 1
Kwanzaa celebrates African heritage and identity. The word Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which translates as “first fruits,” and the holiday is based on traditional African harvest festivals. During Kwanzaa, a red, green or black candle is lit each night and participants place seven symbols around their home representing the principles of the holiday: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith).
The Kwanzaa candle-lighting ceremony uses a candleholder called a kinara. Each day, attendees light a candle representing one of Kwanzaa’s seven principles. On the last day, there is a feast, called the karamu, and a gift exchange. The celebration of Kwanzaa is intended to direct participants to reflect upon and celebrate their community’s culture and contributions to society at large.
As a multicultural nation, people in the United States celebrate Christmas in many ways and with a wide variety of traditions. Common practices in the U.S. include Christmas trees and decorating inside and outside with lights and likenesses of Santa Claus, snowmen and reindeer. Kids often leave cookies and a glass of milk as a snack for Santa on Christmas Eve. Church services are part of many traditions. In the Southwest, there are customs similar to those in parts of Mexico. These include “luminarias” or “farolitos,” which are paper sacks, partly filled with sand, into which candles are placed then lit.
Christmas is a worldwide religious, cultural and commercial phenomenon, with many different traditions. In Japan, people flock to the American fast-food chain KFC to eat “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” — “Kentucky For Christmas!” The Spanish National Lottery gives out the biggest payout of the year, called “El Gordo” or “The Fat One.” Norwegians traditionally hide their mops and brooms to ward off evil spirits. Christmas trees in Ukraine are decorated with spiderweb ornaments, which are said to bring good luck.
Wherever and however you celebrate the holidays, we wish you a warm, safe and happy holiday season!