It's more than just Christmas
By Thunderword Staff
It's the holiday season, and with more holidays and cultures being celebrated, let's take the time to review what that means.
In typical American culture, December has been marked by one major holiday: Christmas. Because of America's history of being majority Christian, Christmas traditionally has been the holiday that most people celebrated. As a result, Christmas has remained a large holiday in American culture, even though there is now more religious diversity.
From Dec. 2 to 6 is Hanukkah, which is a Jewish festival, celebrates the liberation of Israel in 165 B.C. Celebrated with large family meals, gifts, and traditions, Hanukkah is an im- portant holiday in terms of cultural identity, giving a time to share the culture's religion and history.
Besides Christmas, there are many Christian holidays inside the holiday season. While Christianity is already well represented in the Holiday season by Christmas, some of these smaller holidays are very important to some groups, depending on their particular flavor and denomination. An example of this is St. Nicolas Day, which is more popular in Eastern Euro- pean cultures.
The holidays also include the Pagan and Wiccan holidays of the winter solstice, which is Dec. 21, and Yule, which can last up to two months but also starts on Dec. 21. On the shortest day of the year, these holidays celebrate the sun's victory over the moon. These ancient celebrations of the winter season are less common but are increasing in popularity with neopagan and spiritual groups.
There are also two Hindu holidays in December. On Dec. 16, Dhanu Sankranti is celebrated with offerings and prayer to the sun god Lord Surya.
Better known in Hinduism is Gita Jayanti, which is cel- ebrates the sacred text called the Bhagavad Gita. As Hindu holidays are based on the lunar calendar, the dates change from year to year. This year, Gita Jayanti will be on Dec. 18, celebrat- ed with group readings from the Bhagavad Gita.
While not an ancient holiday, Kwanzaa is also an important holiday which should be included in the holiday season. Creat- ed in 1966 and based on Swahili, Ashanti, and Zulu traditions, Kwanza is celebrated for seven days, starting on Dec.26. Some celebrate Kwanzaa as its own holiday, where some include Kwanzaa values and traditions in their other holiday celebra- tions.
Since there are so many different cultural and religious celebrations, its for the best we acknowledged that the holiday season is more than just Christmas. Including these holidays into how we think about the season is part of respecting differ- ent cultures and religions.
In recent years, there has been some backlash about choos- ing to wish people happy holidays rather than a specific holiday. While wanting to greet and wish people well is good, remember that not everyone is celebrating the same thing. Happy holidays is simply broader, acknowledging the existence of other cultures and celebrations.
So this holiday season, celebrate whatever you want, and give everyone else the same chance. Give different holidays the respect they deserve, even if it is not one that you celebrate.