The History of Holidays


With the winter season approaching, many people celebrate holidays that are important to their culture or beliefs. Christmas is a popular holiday celebrated around the world. However, it isn’t the only holiday, and plenty of other celebrations exist with just as much importance.


Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. However, the name Christmas is fairly new in origin. An earlier term used for the holiday was Yule, which is believed to have originated from feasts celebrating the winter solstice in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon culture.


Christmas now is known as a holiday for giving and family, and it is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike to have the ultimate message of gift giving. It takes place on December 25th, though Christmas Eve on the 24th is also a time to celebrate as well.


Another popular holiday celebrated by many families is Hanukkah. Hanukkah takes place this year from December 2nd to the 10th. It is a Jewish holiday, and some people put up decorations as early as October for the exciting celebration.


The origin of Hanukkah includes one of its earliest stories going back all the way to 168 B.C in the Greek Seleucid Empire. King Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued anti-Jewish decrees, and three months after these decrees were put in place, the Greeks dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem as a temple of Apollo and sacrificed pigs on the altar there.


A group of Jewish people named the Maccabees fought against the Greeks, and eventually liberated the temple. Destroying the altar, they made a new one called the Dedication of the Altar, leading to the holiday first being celebrated as a military victory for the Jewish people.


Hanukkah starts on the sunset of Tuesday with the lighting of the first candle in the manorah, a nine candle candelabra, and children in schools start to learn Hanukkah songs and play with dreidels, a spinning top with four sides, overall making the holiday a celebration of family.


Another holiday that is celebrated is Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa started in 1966 when Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of the Black Studies at California State University, wanted to unite African Americans together after learning about the Los Angeles Watts riots.


After he researched different African harvest celebrations, he combined different celebrations to create the foundations of the holiday. Celebrations of the holiday include dances and songs such as reading poetry, storytelling, playing African drums, and having a large meal.


The holiday takes place over seven nights, and each night families gather around as a child lights a candle on the Kinara, the candleholder, all while disuccuing one of the seven principles of the holiday celebration.


These principles are called the Nguzo Saba, meaning the seven principles in Swahili. These principles value African culture that help reinforce the strong bond and community among African Americans who celebrate.


This year, Kwanzaa takes place through December 26th to January 1st, 2019.


In Sweden, Norway, and Swedish-speaking areas in Finland, there’s a celebration called St. Lucia’s Day that takes place on December 13th. In history, it honors the earliest Christian martyr, St. Lucia, who was killed in 304 CE by the Romans.


The holiday marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavian countries, with the message behind the celebration being to bring light and hope during the dark time of the year. Schools for children tend to close in the afternoon so families can get ready for the festival.


The festival starts with the procession led by the St. Lucia designee. Young girls are dressed with lighted wreaths on their heads while wearing white, and boys are dressed in pajama-like clothing while singing traditional songs.


The holiday is observed in a lot of Scandinavian homes with having young girls in the family serve coffee and baked goods like ginger biscuits to the other members in their family.  


With all kinds of different holidays being celebrated throughout the month of December, knowing different cultures and celebrations can help a person know more about the world around them. Whether you celebrate one of these holidays or perhaps none, knowing the core principles of different celebrations will help form a stronger bond with others.