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Published byElisabeth Welch Modified over 7 years ago
Winter Holidays in America
Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated on December 24 (Christmas Eve) and December 25 (Christmas Day). It commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.
This story is probably familiar to most of you; however, you may not realize that many Christmas traditions come from the pagan religions. Paganism is a broad term for many ancient polytheistic religions. Some pagan religions have very simple traditions and festivals. Paganism can also refer to the religion of witchcraft.
Some people think that Jesus was actually born sometime in September, but we celebrate Christmas on December 25 because that is the time of the Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year), which was a pagan festival. The Romans called it Saturnalia, and the Babylonians called it The Feast of Isis. Druids and Celts had winter festivals, too. These parties were so fun that Christians wanted their holiday to be more like them.
The evergreen was a symbol of many pagan religions as a sign of luck and fertility. You will sometimes hear Christmas referred to as Yule-time. Yule was an ancient holiday devoted to the sun god, Mithras.
Santa Claus is based on an actual Christian saint, Saint Nicholas of Myra. Although he was known for gift-giving, he wore the clothing of a bishop. Cartoons and poetry have transformed him over the years into Santa Claus as we know him. Some people say that the red and white colors that Santa wears were thought up by Coke in 1930. While this is probably not entirely true, it was definitely a factor.
Kwanza (or Kwanzaa)
Kwanza is observed each year from December 26 to January 1. It is an African American holiday.
In addition to giving gifts, Kwanza is also a time to eat fruit. Kwanza is linked to the festival of the first harvest in Africa.
Similar to Hanukkah, Kwanza involves lighting candles. In this case there are 7 (one for each night). Kwanza comes from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits”.
Hanukkah or Chanukah
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday. It is celebrated by lighting 9 candles over 8 nights. menorah
Hanukkah commemorates a day around 175 BC during an invasion by the Greco-Romans After the battle, the Jews went back into their temple to find that they only had enough oil to light the lantern to their God for 1 night. Miraculously, it burned for 8
The dreidel is a traditional Hanukkah toy and game. The Jews were not allowed to study their religion under Greek rule, so they would hide in caves and read the Torah. When they saw the Greeks approaching, they would start playing with a dreidel instead and say they were gambling.
A dreidel has 4 sides: נ (Nun) ג (Gimel) ה (Hey) ש (Shin) It is usually played with coins, chips, or gelt (chocolate coins). Collectively, these letters are interpreted as, "a great miracle happened there."
Playing Dreidel in Class Everybody will start with 1 package of candy. Each round players put in 1 piece and 1 player spins the dreidel. (proceeding clockwise) When the dreidel lands on a side, that player takes an amount of candy determined by the symbol on it.
נ (Nun) “None” (take nothing) ג (Gimel) “All” (take all the candy) ה (Hey) “Half” (take half the candy rounded up) ש (Shin) “put in” (put in one more piece of candy and take nothing)
When you don’t have a candy to put in, you are out. When you have all the candy, you win!
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