~ By Jamie Noel Koslarevic
A simple greeting and wish, but what does it actually mean? You will possibly be surprised by how many winter holidays there actually are. Everyone knows Christmas but what about the rest? Because we have so many people from different cultures I figured it’d be wicked if I shared a bit about other holidays. Maybe we all learn something interesting in the process!
Just the other day on December 8th, we had a holiday that passed with only a few of us knowing: Bodhi day! Can’t say I knew about this one but I read that it is the Buddhist Day of Enlightenment. A long time ago, like 2500 years or some, a guy named Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree and experienced Enlightenment. There is a whole lot we could learn from that guy like not making a big fuss about ourselves or adapting to new stuff, but technically we all can learn a lot from each other either way.
Another Holiday I hadn’t heard about is Las Posadas. That one is celebrated between December 16th and 24th and by predominantly Spanish mates. Pretty sure that most of us have heard the story of Joseph and Mary and how they travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem to find a place to say to give birth to their baby. Wicked adventure. Well, that adventure is what Las Posadas remember and a big part of that celebration is the re-enactment of that story.
When we talk about Winter Holidays we can’t forget about Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday that lasts eight days also called the Festival of Lights. A long time ago there was a really bad ruler who -among other things- took over a temple and people didn’t like that. Because of that they rose against him and won. I remember a story about some temple oil that was supposed to run out really soon but like some miracle or something it lasted eight days. Nowadays there are eight candles on a menorah, that are lit, starting with one, and then each night another one is added until they all burn.
Kwanzaa is another holiday around this time. But it isn’t some religious or super old one, it’s actually pretty new. Kwanzaa honours African and African American heritage and culture. It’s celebrated for a whole week by decorating homes with colourful art and cloth, surrounding yourself with family and a lot of food. Part of the celebration is a lighting ceremony in which seven candles are lit that each standing for a Kwanzaa principle and the mates celebrating it often even discuss those principles to remember them. Generally, it is a celebration of heritage and community.
Certain Native American tribes celebrate Soyal, the Winter Solstice. They do so by having a ceremony that is supposed to lure the sun god back after having travelled away making everything dark. That holiday lasts a whole sixteen days and is spent telling stories and praying and is finished with a feast. The tribe members also dress up in costumes and masks representing spirits to support the community and dance.
When we hear of Winter Solstice, we of course can’t forget to mention Yule, which is celebrated by different cultures such as Scandinavian or Celtic people but also other Pagan groups. This solstice is as well celebrated on the shortest day of the year and as Soyal it revolves around the rebirth of the sun. Celebrations vary but traditions like yule logs are widely observed. If you read the origin story of Christmas you will definitely stumble over this one.
With so many cultures in the world, there is no doubt in my mind that there are even more winter holiday celebrations. If you are curious about the ones I mentioned or more, I suggest checking the library or asking someone how they celebrate the holidays!
Since I can’t cover every single celebration by name, I wish you all Happy Holidays!