Since most of us consider ourselves Christian, we get involved in the traditions and festivities of the season. There are, however, other religious and secular holidays sharing the same time of the year. Let me talk a little bit about them:
Hanukkah: “Holiday traditions vary greatly throughout the world based on religion and culture. The Jewish people celebrate a most significant holiday during the holiday season-Hanukkah. The traditions and decorations that belong to Hanukkah are highly symbolic. Hanukkah tradition states that the celebration is to begin every year on the 25th of the Hebrew month Kislev. This year it begins on Sunset December 1st to Sunset December 9th. The tradition of Hanukkah commemorates the Jews' victory over the Syrian Greeks in 165 BCE. That victory can be credited to the Jewish revolutionaries called the Maccabees. In the process of restoring Jerusalem, they found their Temple desecrated and in ruins. In order to restore it, they needed to procure ritual oil for the Temple, but could only find one day's worth-eight days of oil was needed. But a miracle occurred that first Hanukkah. The Temple lamps burned for the full eight days so that the Temple could be rededicated. Hanukkah's decorations either emerged or were adapted from this event.
The Hanukkah decorations that are associated with the celebration of Hanukkah have endured centuries of strife and conflict. As with any holiday decoration, symbolism and tradition run deep. Whether the Hanukkah decoration is the Menorah, the Dreidel or such delicious foods of the season--latkes, vegetables, fruits, potatoes, sufganiyot, and jelly doughnuts without the holes-each represents a Jewish tradition rich in history and hope for tomorrow.”
Kwanzaa, which comes from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza," meaning "first fruits," is celebrated by:
• Decorating the home with the colors of the African flag (bendera): black for the people, red for their struggle, and green for the future and hope that comes from their struggle.
• Laying out a straw or cloth mat (mkeka) in a place of honor in the home. Upon it are placed: a candleholder (kinara) with one central black candle, three red candles to its left and three green candles to its right; crops (mazao), including bananas, plantains, mangoes or whatever the family favorites are; ears of corn (muhindi), representing the children; and a unity cup filled with water, grape juice or wine (kikombe cha umoja). Other objects of African heritage may be added.
• Lighting the kinara: the black candle on the first night, the black one plus the leftmost red one on the next night, those two plus the rightmost green one on the next, etc. Each candle represents one of Kwanzaa's seven principles (nguzo saba).
• Pouring libations from the unity cup in the corners of the room to honor the African ancestors, then passing it around for all to sip.
• Holding a communal feast (karamu) on December 31, with food and an educational program.
• Exchanging enriching and culturally significant gifts (zawadi).”
It is believed that Christ was born on the 25th, although the exact month is unknown. December was likely chosen so the Catholic Church could compete with rival pagan rituals held at that time of year and because of its closeness with the winter solstice in the Northern hemisphere, a traditional time of celebration among many ancient cultures.”
We, as Christians, and especially LDS (or Mormons), believe that His birth was in the spring, but still like to celebrate Christmas with the rest of the world anyway. We may like having Santa around, and love to decorate trees and homes, but we know that the real purpose of the holiday is to remember Him, and to teach our children about His birth and ministry.
To view a copy of the Neighborhood News for Wednesday, 1 December, please click here.