by Michael Donahoe
I know there is always a debate this time of year about how we greet people during the Christmas season. Yet, just because we live in the United States, we need to remember that there are several other holiday celebrations going on here in the states and around the world. Following are a few of the more known holiday celebrations going on during or near this time of year:
Also known as Rohatsu, this Buddhist tradition honors the day in which the Buddha — Siddartha Gautauma — is said to have achieved enlightenment. Many Buddhists celebrate it through meditation.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that’s celebrated for eight days and nights, beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar cycle, so Hanukkah can fall anywhere from November 28th to December 26th. “This holiday commemorates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.” People celebrate Hanukkah by lighting their menorahs, spinning dreidels and eating delicious foods!
A joyous occasion that is often celebrated with feasts, gifts, and special prayers. Other important December holidays for Muslims include the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, known as Mawlid al-Nabi, and the Day of Ashura, which is a day of fasting and reflection.
For Pagans, December means the holiday of Yule is coming! It falls on December 21st, which marks the winter solstice; which is the shortest day and longest night of the year. The winter solstice celebrates the rebirth of the sun, because days get longer from then on out.
From December 16th through December 24th, Las Posadas is celebrated by some Hispanic families in the United States. It’s a nine-day celebration before Christmas, beginning with a procession with candles, songs and sometimes even people playing the parts of Mary and Joseph who led the parade. Every night of Las Posadas is celebrated with gifts, piñatas, song, parties, tamales and prayer.
For most of us here in the United States, Christmas is being celebrated on December 25. For Christians, it is the time we celebrate the birth of Jesus into our world. For others, it is a time of family celebration and the enjoyment of exchanging gifts with one another.
In the United States, roughly five million people celebrate Kwanzaa each year! Kwanzaa is a seven-day holiday that celebrates African culture. It begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st. On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, there’s a Kwanzaa Karamu, which is a big feast. Gifts of Kuumba (creativity) are given to loved ones. Kwanzaa’s also celebrated through lighting the Kinara, performing and listening to traditional music and discussing African principles and history.
Founded by the Prophet Zoroaster more than 3,000 years ago, Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions. Zoroastrians honor the death of their prophet on this day, typically by visiting a fire temple and offering prayers.
While this holiday falls a little bit before the rest, Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is a five-day long Hindu holiday celebrating life and the victory of good over evil. Taking place in October or November, each day of Diwali has a different legend it celebrates, but the holiday is filled with fireworks, feasts and family. The date of Diwali is determined based on the Hindu lunisolar calendar.
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days, beginning on the first day of the lunar new year. The 15th day of the new year is the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with a parade. The Chinese New Year marks the end of winter and the beginning of Spring and is a time to be spent with family and loved ones, eating and enjoying time together.
There is nothing wrong with saying Merry Christmas, yet sometimes it may be more appropriate when around people you do not know to say Happy Holidays. I do not think this should be considered a war on Christmas, rather it is being kind and respectful to others. So, during this holiday season, think outside of the Christmas box and appreciate all of the other holidays celebrated during the most wonderful time of the year!
Michael Donahoe also writes on Substack at https://personalmeanderings.substack.com/