December 17, 2012
A Month Full Of Celebration
December is home to many holidays from many religions and many cultures. Of course, most know of Christmas, but there are other important holiday festivities taking place during this month. In fact, there are too many to discuss all of them, so I thought I’d pare it down to a handful.
No discussion of December holidays would be complete without the mention of Christmas. In fact, Christmas is so widely known that I won’t spend too much time in the discussion. Christmas originally was the celebration of the birth of the Christian savior, Jesus Christ. On this day, families gathered to celebrate his coming to earth and the beginning of his life. Christmas has also become a day to celebrate each other with gift giving and family time. Though many families still celebrate the birth of Christ, many focus primarily on the family gift exchange, Santa Claus, and the Christmas tree.
This second major religious holiday celebrated is Hanukkah, which is also a known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is the Jewish celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Like with Christmas, this holiday also focuses very much on the importance of family. This Festival of Lights lasts for eight days and is celebrated by lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games, and gifts.
The Winter Solstice, also called Yule in some cultures, celebration focuses on midwinter, which will also be the shortest day of the year. Many religions—Pagan, Wicca, Native American Tribes, and others—celebrate this day because of its astronomical relevance. On this day, usually either December 21 or 22, the celebrations focus on renewal, cleansing, and honoring family friends. This is much older than both Christmas and Hanukkah, yet we see that all three focus on new beginnings (either through birth, dedication, or renewal) and family.
This Hindu holiday is one I know less about, so I went to the website for Hinduism Today, a Hindu Magazine, and read up on the holiday. Hinduism Today described Pancha Ganapati as the five-day holiday full of family-centered happenings. Pancha Ganapati occurs from Decemeber 21-25 in honor of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed lord of culture and new beginnings. Uh oh, there’s those two words again: family and new beginnings. But back to Pancha Ganapati. Hinduism Today wrote, “Family members work to mend past mistakes and bring His [Lord Ganesha] blessings of joy and harmony into five realms of their life, a wider circle each day: family, friends, associates, culture and religion.”
For Buddhists, this is the celebration of the day of enlightenment. On this day, December 8, the historical Buddha experienced true enlightenment, which is what all Buddhists seek in their faith, their actions, and their interactions with others.
According to the official Kwanzaa website, Kwanzaa is an African-American and Pan-African holiday celebrating—yep, you guessed it—family, community, and culture. From December 26 to January 1, families gather to reaffirm their bonds, give reverence to the creator and creation, commemorate the past in pursuit of its lessons, recommit to the highest cultural ideas, and celebrate the Good.
Of course, for most of the western world, December 31 to January 1 marks the beginning of a new year, thus renewal, new beginnings, and new commitments or recommitments.
Just based on what I know and my research, there are tons of other holidays that happen during this time of year. And though they are equally as important as these that I’ve outlined here, I simply do not have the time nor the space to go through them all. Instead, I want to point out that all of the major holidays of this season center around family and renewal in some way. I’m sure a bit of that has to do with cultural influence and immersion, but I also think that most of it is simply because humans are humans no matter their location, their cultural beliefs, or their religious faith. We all want a chance at new beginnings. We all want a happy, healthy, and peaceful family. Thus we celebrate similar things at similar times of the year.
What is most inspiring about this is that our different cultural and religious holidays unite us because we celebrate similar ideas. Okay, the dogma and specific rites and rituals vary, but the main focus points, the main purposes, are the same. Isn’t that enough to live and let live? Isn’t that enough to accept each other and our ideas and beliefs? Isn’t that worth celebrating?
This year, learn more about another holiday during this holiday season. Connect and create new beginnings with others. Share beliefs and ideas and create family bonds with friends. This holiday season, do not just focus on what’s traditional, what you’ve always done. Learn something new and different. Renew your faith and beliefs through others.
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