Although it may seem (at least to many of us in the U.S.) that December is all about Christmas there are many holidays celebrated during this month. There are so many ways to celebrate across the world, and so many celebrations that it must be in our human makeup to thank our saviors, gift our loved ones, eat together, and make merry in the month that can seem the darkest and coldest of the year.
The Feast of St. Nicholas or Krampusnacht is celebrated in various countries in Europe on December 6th. Krampus is a hairy devil who is tasked with giving coal to naughty children, while St. Nicholas gives gifts to the good children.
Advent starts the beginning of the month and carries on all throughout until Christmas. It is a celebration getting ready for the Nativity of Jesus and is celebrated by various Christian churches all over the world.
Las Posadas is a nine day religious celebration all over Latin America and Spain beginning December 16th. It was started some 400 years ago to teach non-literate people the religious stories, including the birth of Jesus.
Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8th. It is a celebration of the day the Buddha achieved enlightenment and so is sometimes called Enlightenment Day.
Then, of course, Winter Solstice or the Longest Night of the year usually falling on or around the 21st.
Sweden has St. Lucia Day in honor of Lucia a Christian martyr killed for her beliefs. Girls dress up in white dresses with a wreath of candles around their heads (don’t worry with modern batteries they aren’t live flame!) and bring coffee and rolls called Lussekatts to the adults in the morning.
Hanukkah we may think of as eight days of celebration of a miracle or the Festival of Lights as set on the calendar in stone. But not so. Hanukkah is celebrated on different dates throughout the world depending on country and which traditional calendar is being followed.
Another familiar sounding holiday is Yule or Yuletide, once a pagan hunting festival, has some similar customs in common with modern Christmas, such as the yule log, and yule tide singing (what we call caroling).
Kwanzaa is a week long celebration starting December 26th and is probably one of the newest festivals of the world, started in 1966 by secular humanist Maulana Karenga as an African-American holiday, borrowing from West African traditions and from other nations in the continent.
Boxing Day is on December 26th and may seem like it should be the day you throw away all the boxes from all the presents, but really it refers to the sort of donation boxes in churches in England that were opened the day after Christmas and the contents distributed to the poor. It was also a day off for servants and workers to celebrate with their families, since in Christmas they were busy taking care of the more fortunate.
One day we all agree to is New Year’s Eve. Even before the international ball drop, once most of the world adopted the Georgian calendar in the 1500’s (which made scheduling play dates sooooo much easier), we all take a moment at the end of the calendar year to reflect, celebrate in our own way, and welcome in another year.
Happy Holidays whatever you celebrate!