Can you believe this is the last holiday post of the year? Where has the time gone? This year has flown by entirely too fast. Well, with that in mind, let’s let ‘er rip!
December 6th – St. Nicholas Day – Bishop living in region now known as Turkey in the 300’s AD. Started leaving coins in the shoes of children if they left them on their doorsteps. One story states that a father with three daughters could not afford to offer dowries for them and they would be sold into slavery if they could not marry. Bags of gold showed up mysteriously, having been thrown through an open window and landing in either stockings or shoes laid next to the fire to dry. St. Nicholas died Dec. 6, 343. Families of German decent in the U.S. still practice the giving on stockings filled with small toys, coins and fruit on the morning of December 6th.
December 7th – Pearl Harbor Day – The day the Japanese attacked the U.S. Naval fleet stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i, thus forcing the Unites States into World War II in 1941. This year is the 71st anniversary of the attack and survivors are slowly dying. One survivor is still attempting to identify those killed and buried in anonymity.
December 8th – Bodhi Day – Buddhism. Celebrating when the historic Budda, Siddhartha Gautama found enlightenment. The day is celebrated with relection, eating rice and milk for breakfast as Buddha did during his search for enlightenment and stringing lights around the house and keeping them lit for thirty days.
December 8th – 15th – Chanukah – Festival of Lights. Celebrating the Maccabees defeat of the Syrian/Greek Army, when the faithful went to light the Menorrah, they found only one day’s worth of oil. Somehow, the supply lasted eight days until new oil could be ritually prepared. This celebration is now Chanukah.
December 21st – Winter Solstice/First Day of Winter/Yule – The shortest day of the year. Celebrated as Saturnalia in Roman times on December 17th, it gradually stretched from one day to five, and sometimes seven, days. A day of feasting, giving gifts to friends and family and where the role of master and slave were reversed and the slave could enjoy the luxuries of their masters without consequence. Yule is a celebration of the light giver winning out over the darkness because after Yule, the days start getting longer. The Yule Log was brought in to help illuminate the night. It was lit using a piece of the previous years’ log then left to smolder for 12 days. Norse tradition states the Yuletide marked the victory of the Sun God over the Holly King. First Day of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere is the First Day of Summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
December 25th – Christmas – Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. The tradition of the having evergreens through the house dates back to the Egyptians, Romans, along with other early cultures. The plants that stayed green throughout the year (Holly, Ivy, Mistletoe) were seen as symbols to help keep away witches, evil spirits, and illness. Decorating a tree indoors is said to have started in Germany. Supposedly, Martin Luther was the first to introduce lighting to a tree when he attached candles to his families tree. In Puritan America, the tree, and other lively celebrations, were not allowed at Christmas because of their Pagan origins. Anything other than attending church services was considered illegal. German immigrants helped bring the Christmas tree to America, but didn’t become popular in households until the late 1800’s, after it became fashionable in Europe to have a tree. Jesus’ birth is agreed to have occurred on the 25th, just not December. It was the general consensus of the leaders during the late 4th and early 5th Centuries to use December 25th as the date to celebrate his birth in order to move people from their Pagan celebrations to Christianity.
December 25th – January 5th – 12 Days of Christmas. Days between the birth of Jesus and the coming of the Magi.
December 26th – Boxing Day – A day with uncertain origins, it’s thought to have started as a alms day where the charity boxes of the churches and the money within distributed amongst the community’s poor. Another possible origin would be the opening of servant’s presents presented by their masters/employers the day after Christmas. It has been a national holiday in England, Ireland and Canada since 1871.
December 26th – Kwanzaa – I’m going to let Dr. Maulana Karenga summarize this holiday for me. “The holiday, then will of necessity, be engaged as an ancient and living cultural tradition which reflects the best of African thought and practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, the well-being of family and community, the integrity of the environment and our kinship with it, and the rich resource and meaning of a people’s culture.” The official Kwanzaa Website
December 31st – New Year’s Eve – Before 46 BC, the new year started in March around the vernal equinox. After that point, Julius Caesar revamped the calendar and January became the beginning of the year. Celebrations were considered pagan and unchristian and stopped during the middle ages. Around the Renaissance period, celebrations started again and have become a time of restarting our lives to a degree: making resolutions, ending the fiscal year, beginning anew on January 1st with a fresh start.
There’s the end of the list! I can’t believe this is the end of the list. I’ve learned quite a few things that I learned throughout researching for this segment. What I’ve learned is that there are similarities between so many cultures that I don’t understand why we can’t just recognize those similarities and use it as a way to find a balance with others. To sound totally cheesy, why can’t we just all get along?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and learned something in the process.
Let me know what you’ve thought about this and if there’s anything you’d like to see in the future.