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Different Winter Holidays

Brennah Lee, Staff Writer

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Although a majority of the United States’ population celebrates Christmas, there are numerous other holidays that are either celebrated concurrently with Christmas or as an alternative holiday, including Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Three Kings Day, and Eid, to name a few.

About 92% of the American people celebrate Christmas as either a religious or cultural holiday, and about 8% don’t participate in its festivities at all, according to the Pew Research Center. Due to the USA’s diverse population, many different cultures and religions celebrate other festivities, such as the Islamic Eid, Hispanic Three Kings Day, African Kwanzaa, Pagan Yule, Humanist HumanLight Festival, and Jewish Hanukkah.

Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that takes place for a week from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It reflects African thoughts and practices in its reaffirmation of the importance a human in a community and culture, the well-being of family and society. It also stresses the importance of the environment and the African kinship with it, and the effects of that relationship with their people’s culture.

Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966–67, making it a relatively new celebration. Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, which means the “first fruits of the harvest”.  The holiday focuses on Nguzo Saba, or the “seven principles of African Heritage”. In the early years of Kwanzaa, it’s founder stated that it was meant to be an “oppositional alternative” to Christmas. However, as the holiday gained mainstream adherents, Karenga later changed his position so that practicing Christians would not be alienated.

Three Kings Day is a cultural holiday of Hispanic origin that is also known as the Epiphany and Día De Los Reyes Magos.

“It’s like a second Christmas, and we get presents from all three kings” sophomore Lorena Velazquez, a Three Kings Day participant said.

The holiday is celebrated on Jan. 6 at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas by Eastern Christian churches. It commemorates the baptism of Jesus, as well as the gifts he received from the three kings: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.

“It’s something I’ve grown up with, it’s a tradition,” Velazquez said.

Hanukkah or Chanukah, is an eight day Jewish holiday meaning “dedication” that’s celebrated in the wintertime “festival of lights,”  that’s celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, prayers and fried foods. It is tradition to give money gifts to children, play dreidel games, and give more charity each day of Chanukah. There are also certain passages added to the Jewish daily prayer and Grace After Meals.

During the second century BC, the Holy Land was ruled by Seleucids who were Syrian-Greeks. They tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs. A small group of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in its service to God. When they sought to light the Temple’s Menorah, only a single cruse of olive oil had escaped the Greeks. The one-day supply burned for eight days until new oil could be prepared, creating the holiday.

Eid, also known as Eid al-Fitr is an Islamic celebration of “the prophet coming to Mecca” sophomore Ali Raja said, it also gives thanks to Allah. Its date varies each year although taking place anywhere from August to September, and “it’s like our Christmas” Raja said.

Many Muslims dress in fine clothes and decorate their homes with lights and other adornments. Old wrongs are forgiven, money is given to the poor, and special foods are prepared for friends and relatives, invited to share the feast. Gifts and cards are exchanged between friends and relatives, and children receive presents.

“We go to a prayer in the morning at nine, and the parents give kids money” Raja said.

Even though Christmas is a very popular holiday celebrated in the winter, other holidays such as Three Kings Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Eid al-Fitr are also celebrated by different religions and cultures.

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Different Winter Holidays