Holiday traditions are an important part to building a strong bond between family, and our community. They give us a sense of belonging and a way to express what is important to us. Traditions are a wonderful way to anchor family members to each other, providing a sense of unity and belonging.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. This year it begins on Saturday, Dec. 21 and continues through Sunday, Jan. 1. In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication," and the holiday marks the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. The center ritual to Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles — eight of them to symbolize the miraculous eight days that lamps, which should not have had the oil to burn, lit a temple, cleansing it of its poor condition — and a ninth to light them all. Families light one candle on the first night, two on the second, and so on, after sundown during the eight days of the holiday while reciting prayers.
Food surrounding this holiday is deep-fried, caloric and absolutely delicious. As Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such jam-filled doughnuts known as sufganiyot and potato pancakes known as latkes. Rabbinic literature suggests there is also a tradition of eating dairy products, such as cheese, during Hanukkah, so many dishes will contain dairy. In many households, gifts are exchanged during this time — one given on each night of the holiday.
Kwanzaa, December 26h- January 1st, is a mostly secular holiday created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, in 1966 in response to the Watts riots in Los Angeles. Kwanzaa, a seven-night festival, commemorates values and concepts reflective of African culture. The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili.
On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candelabra), and each night one of the seven principles, called the Nguzo Saba, is discussed. The principles are values of African culture which help to build and reinforce community among African-Americans: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Kwanzaa celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading and a large traditional meal. There are many different interpretations of what "Kwanzaa food" is, and some of that depends on the area of the world the families’ culture came from. But let’s just say that Kwanzaa is a delicious tribute to soul food, African recipes and even Caribbean flavors.
Chinese New Year, this year — the year of the fire rooster — begins on Saturday, Jan. 28. The New Year festival is centuries old. Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities and ancestors. Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese New Year vary widely, which means across the globe, they do too. But most contain a gathering of family, a thorough cleansing of the house to sweep away ill-fortune and make way for good luck to come in. Red paper decorations will decorate windows and doors. Firecrackers will be lit and money will be given in red paper envelopes printed with wishes of wealth, prosperity and longevity.
Christmas, December 25th, originated as a religious holiday celebrated by Christians around the world to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Religious celebrations involve candle-lit wreaths to represent the four weeks of Advent, songs like “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” readings of Christmas stories in the Bible, the display of Nativity Scenes, and December 24th Midnight mass in darkness to celebrate the birth of light. Over the years, Christmas has been adopted by non-Christian peoples as a secular holiday of gift-giving, decorating, caroling, storytelling, and feasting. Traditions vary around the world. Evergreen trees decorated with ornaments and lights date back to 16th Century Germany. In Australia, where Christmas falls during summer, people head out to the beach and decorate a Christmas Bush. Depictions of Father Christmas or Santa Claus, based loosely on Saint Nicholas, go back at least as far as the reign of Henry VIII, where he appeared in plays wearing fur-lined green or red robes to deliver peace, joy, food, wine, and good cheer.
Some say Santa arrives on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer to deliver gifts to good girls and boys, but he arrives by boat in Hawaii and on water skis in Australia. Instead of leaving milk and cookies out for Santa Claus, children in England leave mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas. Iceland has thirteen Santas known as Yule Lads who leave small gifts for good children in shoes left on the window sill, and potatoes in the shoes of naughty children. From lantern festivals in the Philippines and Kentucky Fried Chicken dinners in Japan, to 42-foot-tall straw yule goats in Sweden and late night fireworks in Brazil, there is no shortage of ways to observe Christmas around the world.
However you celebrate we hope your homes are filled with warmth and love this holiday season. Take time to be grateful for all that you have, and have hope for the new year to come!
From all of us at Team ELM, we wish you are a very happy holiday!
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