Winter Holidays

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Winter holidays are a great time of year for celebration. In the midst of what is usually the busiest time of year, it is important to slow down and celebrate holidays with family and friends. (Photo courtesy of Banks Blizzard)

Winter holidays across the globe bring people together in unique and special ways, each with its own set of customs and cultural significance. Some of those holidays include Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali (although not officially in winter it does still occur around this time), Kwanzaa, Three Kings Day, Winter Solstice, and Bodhi Day. 

Christmas is one of the most widely known winter holidays, maybe even the most widely known. More than 2 billion people in over 160 countries celebrate Christmas . People celebrate Christmas by celebrating the birth of Christ, going to church, giving or receiving gifts, decorating Christmas trees, and enjoying special meals. While Christmas has Christian roots celebrating the birth of Christ, many people around the world, regardless of their religious beliefs, celebrate the holiday of Christmas.

“During Christmas, my family and I go to church to celebrate the birth of Christ. In my family, Christmas isn’t all about gifts or lights… yes we do those things too but it is important to my family to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. We go to church and do hanging of the greens which is a ceremony where we hang wreaths and sing silent night with lit candles. It’s really fun and it’s always one of my favorite Christmas traditions. Although I do enjoy opening gifts, it is important to my family and I to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas too,” said Maggie Adams, junior. 

Although Diwali does not technically fall in the season of winter it is still a notable holiday around the winter time. Often called the Festival of Lights, is a major celebration in Hindu traditions. Lasting for five days, it signifies the victory of light over darkness. People decorate their homes with lights and lamps, exchange food (typically sweets), and engage in cultural events. Diwali emphasizes the importance of inner light and spiritual awareness.

Hanukkah, celebrated by Jewish people, usually falls in December. Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the menorah for eight days, symbolizing the miracle of oil in the Temple of Jerusalem. Families come together to enjoy special foods like latkes, exchanging gifts and reflecting on the history and significance of the holiday.

“Every night for eight days straight, we light Hanukkah candles, and you say two prayers. We also go to my grandma’s house and make homemade latkes. On certain days, we play the dreidel game… with my synagogue we have certain events where we can light huge menorahs together and there are also menorah lighting ceremonies at Crabtree and at the ice rink in Cary,” said Hannah Sienkowski, senior.  

Kwanzaa, mainly celebrated in the United States and African diaspora communities, spans seven days. It focuses on principles like unity and creativity. Families light the kinara, exchange handmade gifts, and celebrate African heritage and community during this time.

These winter holidays may have diverse origins, but they all share common themes of joy, unity, and celebrating light during the darkest days of the year. Understanding and appreciating these cultural differences can make the holiday season richer and more meaningful for everyone involved.

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