Origins Of Winter Holidays
Winter Holidays around the Globe
Tết(Tết Nguyen Dan) is a celebration of rebirth and is Vietnam’s version of the Lunar New Year.It marks the first day of the New Year according to the moon and will begin January 25, 2020. The most important aspect of Tết is being with family and focusing on blessings, good luck, and honoring ancestors.
Hanukkah (or “Chanukah”) is an eight-day Jewish celebration also known as The Festival of Lights. It is, according to the religious text, the Talmud , a miraculous event. During the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C., the menorah’s candles burned for eight days instead of one.
Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t until the 9th century that the holiday was celebrated with specific religious customs and ceremonies. Ceremonies include attending mass, and the commemoration of the Nativity (which means “to be born” in Latin). Christians believe that the Star of Bethlehem lit up the entire night sky on Christmas Eve.
Kwanzaa is an African holiday that, in Swahili, means “first fruits.” The holiday is based on seven principles called the “Nguzo Saba” and is celebrated by lighting one of seven candles each night for seven nights. Just as the Jewish candle holder or “menorah” is used during Hanukkah, the “kinara” is used for holding candles during Kwanzaa. There is a feast that is held on December 31st called a “Karamu.”
How to Celebrate
The most important way to celebrate these holidays is by giving to others and surrounding yourself with loved ones. The celebrations of the winter solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Têt all have religious roots that focus on the miraculous and are ideal for reflecting on the past year and the new year to come. All of the holidays are celebrated with a feast, presents and certain decorations. For Kwanzaa, a table is set with fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts in wooden bowls along with a traditional woven mat called a “Mkeka.” The colors green, black, and red are traditionally used for decoration.
For Christmas, most people display a Christmas tree in their homes, attend church on Christmas Eve, and give out presents.
For Hanukkah, the menorah is lit (one candle each night for eight nights – and there is a ninth candle used to light the others; this is called a “shammash”) while presents are given, matzah is hidden for children to find and dreidel games are played.
For Têt, family and renewal is very important so most people celebrate with elaborate festivals, dance and, of course, feasting.
For more information on these holidays and the topics mentioned in this blog, consult these websites: