As there are three major holidays in December: Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve, we have decided to feature them here.
Christmas is celebrated on December 25. In some countries it is celebrated on the 24th. Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The most common way to celebrate is by giving gifts to family and friends for the holiday. This represents the gifts the three wise men brought to Mary and Joseph (Jesus’ parents) when Jesus was born.
Today it is typical for people to set up a Christmas tree, which is usually an evergreen, such as a spruce, pine, or fir. Some people use real and others use fake trees. The tree is then decorated with ornaments, garland, and lights. Christmas presents are placed under the tree. Children are taught that Santa Claus comes on the night of Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) to deliver presents to children who have been good throughout the year. A stocking (specially-made, large, sock-like items) for each person is hung from the fireplace mantle for Santa to place small items and sweets inside.
Below is a video about the Christmas tree.
Below is a video that discusses the history or Christmas as well as some current traditions.
Santa is a white-bearded, big-bellied man, typically dressed in red and white, who lives in the North Pole. He lives there with his wife, and elves who make toys for all the girls and boys. He has a sleigh pulled by 8 reindeer (9 if you include Rudolph) with which he can fly from house to house, landing on rooftops, to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve. Once he arrives at the house, he goes down the chimney with his big bag of gifts and places them under the Christmas tree. It is typical for children to leave milk and cookies our for Santa to eat when he arrives. Typically weeks prior to his arrival, children will write letters to Santa telling him what they want for Christmas.
Below is a short video on the evolution of Santa Claus.
On Christmas morning, children get up early and race to the Christmas tree to see what gifts have been placed there for them. The family will sit around and open gifts, and children will spend the day playing with the toys they received. There is typically a large dinner prepared with a ham or turkey as the main dish, as well as many side dishes.
Christmas Movies and Music
It is not uncommon to experience carolers during the Christmas season. These are groups of people that stand out in public or go door-to-door singing Christmas songs or ‘carols.’
Some popular Christmas songs can be found below at the Pandora Christmas station.
According to Pew Research Center, Christmas is celebrated by 92% of Americans. The image below links you to the research on Christmas.
Hanukkah, Hebrew for dedication, is a Jewish holiday that celebrates Jewish triumph over religious persecution. It is an eight-day celebration that begins on 25 Kislev of the Hebrew calendar. This year that runs from sundown on December 6 – 14. Each night one candle of the menorah (see image below) is lit using the center candle, until by the eighth night all candles have been lit.
During this time families get together, and children often play a game called Dreidel where a four-sided top-like figure is spun. Each player puts coins or another object in the center. Depending on the outcome of the spin, the spinner gets nothing, half, all of what is in the center, or they must place another coin or object in the center. Gifts are often given during this time on one or all of the nights.
Below is a video that explains the origins of Hanukkah.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is celebrated on December 31st each year. People often celebrate by going to parties and/or shooting fireworks. It is common to toast in the new year, typically with champagne. The most popular celebration in the US takes place in New York City were hundreds of thousands of people gather in Times Square to watch the ball drop. This event is televised all over the US. People count down to midnight, when the ball drops, and the new year begins.
The video below provides brief information about how and when the new year is celebrated around the world as well as the celebration that takes place in New York City.
New Year’s Resolutions
A popular custom is for people to create new year’s resolutions that they plan to keep going into the new year. The new year is seen as a new beginning and a time for people to make changes or improvements. People often make resolutions such as: exercise more, lose weight, procrastinate less, spend more time with the family, and so on.
According to this Forbes article, only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s Resolutions!
Whether you celebrate some of none of these holidays, we hope you learned something about them and wish you a happy holiday season!