Long before the world’s major religions dominated the holidays, December was a time of year filled with celebrations! Today many religions have major holidays in the month of December, and along with a variety of secular celebrations, December is one of the most festive months of the year. If you’re not a big fan of the cold and snow in Boston, celebrate all of these holidays – what a better way to add some warmth to the darkest month of the year! Share your holiday stories with Global Immersions!
People have long celebrated the Evergreen's ability to stay green all winter
Winter Solstice – December 21 - 22
In the northern hemisphere, the shortest day, and longest night, falls on the 21 or 22 day of December . This natural phenomenon has been celebrated for millennia – ancient peoples who worshiped the sun thought that it grew sick during the winter. Celebrating the solstice meant the sun was getting better and the days would get longer. Evergreen trees with their ability to stay “ever-green” were celebrated as a reminder that planets would grow again once the sun was strong enough. This veneration of the evergreen tree continues to this day with Christian Christmas trees!
The Nativity Church in Bethlehem
Christmas – December 25
Christmas is celebrated by Christians and the various Christian denominations as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Today Christians celebrate by attending Church or Mass on Christmas eve or day, sharing presents under a Christmas tree and spending time with their families. Houses are usually filled with celebratory decorations like manger scenes, Christmas lights, stockings, mistletoe and Christmas cookies. Depending on which country you live in, presents are delivered by Santa Claus, Father Christmas or Sinterklas. All of these names derived from the 4th century Saint Nicolas, the Archbishop of Myra in Asia Minor (now Turkey). His acts of secret charity prompted the tradition of giving presents.
Music is an important part of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa – December 26 to January 1
Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday held mostly in North America that celebrates African unity, heritage and culture. It is a secular holiday created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966. The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, which means the first fruits of the harvest. Each of the seven days represents one of seven principles of Kwanzaa, or Nguzo Saba, which include self-determination, creativity, unity and purpose, to name a few. All week African heritage is celebrated and the holiday culminates in a feast and gift giving.
Ganesha, the Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture
Pancha Ganapati – December 21 to 25
Pancha Ganapati is a modern day Hindu festival that celebrates Lord Ganesha, the Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture. During each of the five days of Pancha Ganapati, a special sadhana, or spiritual discipline, is focused upon by the entire family. Because of the festival’s importance as a new beginning and mending of all past mistakes, a shrine is created in the main living room of the home and decorated in the spirit of this festive occasion. Children play a large role in the festival and each day they prepare a tray of sweets, fruit and incense as an offering to Ganesha, make cards that have art or verses from the Vedas and share small gifts.