Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are celebrated in December.
Each December, many people around the world celebrate holidays and traditions that are special to their culture and religion. Christmas is celebrated on December 25. This year, the first night of Hanukkah is on December 8. Kwanzaa begins on December 26.
On Christmas, Christians honor the birth of Jesus Christ. They celebrate the day with prayers, gifts and stories. In one Christmas tradition, a jolly, bearded man named Santa Claus brings gifts to good children on Christmas Eve. Each country has its own traditions for Christmas celebrations. In the sixteenth century, Germans started the Christmas-tree tradition as we now know it. They brought trees into their homes and decorated them with fruits, nuts, lighted candles and paper roses.
The Story of Hanukkah
This year, Jews begin celebrating Hanukkah at sunset on December 20. The holiday lasts eight days and nights. In Hebrew, the word "Hanukkah" means "dedication." Hanukkah honors a struggle that dates back to 165 B.C., when Jews defeated an invading army and regained the Temple at Jerusalem. According to legend, Jews found a lamp inside the temple with just enough oil to light their holy lamps for one night. By some miracle, the legend goes, it burned for eight nights. Today, Jews celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a candle in a menorah for each of the eight nights.
Many African Americans celebrate Kwanzaa to honor their cultural roots in Africa. Kwanzaa is modeled after a series of cultural principles called Kawaida. According to Kawaida, African Americans can improve their lives by getting back in touch with their cultural roots. The holiday lasts seven days and nights, each marked by the lighting of a candle that represents a principle of family and community.
Peace on Earth
People of many backgrounds and belief systems spend time in December reflecting on the year that is coming to an end, then setting goals and making plans for the new year to come. The beginning of the dark, chilly winter seems a good time to gather loved ones around a fire or a candlelit table and celebrate the new beginning that we all share at the end of every December.