Lights, family, joy: How three different winter holidays are celebrated

Jacob DiCenzo, Managing Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

What do you think of when you hear the words “Winter Holidays”? Maybe Christmas, the holiday where families get together, eat, open presents, and share memories. Many people have heard of Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, but do they really know what these two holidays are about? December is a time for celebrating for many people, but the ways that they celebrate can differ depending on the person’s background or culture.


Firstly, Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. Jesus was the child of Mary and Joseph who were traveling to Bethlehem and denied access to an inn to birth her child. They were offered a stable to stay in and eventually, Jesus was born and placed in  a Manger. Three wise men visited Jesus at his birth bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Now we celebrate his birth on this day every year on December 25 by giving gifts to each other.


Kids, teenagers, and adults alike celebrate Christmas together with activities such as opening and sharing presents, eating Christmas dinner, and enjoying the moment with each other. As the Christmas tradition goes, Santa delivers presents to all the good boys and girls while they are asleep on the night of Christmas Eve. Also, it is said, if you are naughty you will be put on Santa’s naughty list and get coal for Christmas. Families enjoy Christmas traditions such as putting up a Christmas tree and decorating it, leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, and singing Christmas carols. People will often buy presents for each other too.


Secondly, Hanukkah, the Jewish-celebrated holiday that spans for eight days starting on Dec. 2 through Dec.8. This holiday commemorates the victory against the Greeks in second century BCE. There was a war because the Greeks wanted the Jews to accept Greek culture instead of the observance of mitzvah. A small group of Jews, led by Judah, took back the Holy Temple and used it for the service of God. In modern culture Hanukkah is celebrated with many different activities such as lighting a menorah nightly, singing songs and reciting special blessings, reciting Hallel prayers daily, playing a game known as “Dreidel”, and gifting Hanukkah Gelt. A menorah is a candle holder with nine candles and one is lit the first day to kindle the rest once per day. A Dreidel is a top with four sides that each have a letter from the Hebrew alphabet. Finally, Gelt are coins given to kids who do their traditions properly and well during Hanukkah.

Lastly, Kwanzaa is a December holiday celebrating African heritage and harvest. During Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, they celebrate the Nguzo Saba which means the Seven Principles. Seven candles are lit, and seven symbols are put around the house. The Seven principles are “umoja” (unity), “kujichagulia” (self-determination), “ujima” (responsibility), “ujamaa” (cooperative economics), “nia” (purpose), “kuumba” (creativity), and “imani” (faith). The seven symbols they put up around the homes represent many things, including: mkeka, kinara, mishumaa saba, kikombe cha umoja, vibunzi, mazao, zawadi. They are placed in areas that represent many features of life, such as an ear of corn that represents each child in the family, or a candle holder that holds seven candles and represents parents. Usually families celebrate in different ways but they do things such as dancing, storytelling, and singing. Friends and family are usually invited to a big feast on the final night of Kwanzaa.