Home Culture December Holidays That Aren’t Christmas

December Holidays That Aren’t Christmas

by madisonmeehan
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The month of December overwhelms society with talk of Christmas- the lights, the trees, the gifts, the sales. But there are other holidays in the month of December that deserve a spotlight as well.

Bohdi Day- December 8

A holiday celebrated primarily in Asia, it celebrates the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama to Buddha. The Buddhists believe that he became Enlightened under a Bohdi tree, hence the name. It is typically celebrated by meditation and the only decorations used are candles and small ficus trees with strings of beads.

Saint Nicholas Day- December 6

The day of the man who inspired Santa Claus. The holiday is popular in many European countries, including Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey. Children put their shoes by the door or stockings over the fireplace filled with straw and carrots for Saint Nicholas’ horse (or donkey in certain countries). These items are replaced in the night by small toys and candy by Saint Nicholas himself.

Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe- December 12

The Feast (Fiesta) of Our Lady of Guadalupe honors the reported appearance of the mother of Jesus in Mexico City during the 16th century, who became the patron saint of Mexico. While not an official holiday, there are still feasts and large celebrations with family.

Hanukkah- Dates Vary

The Jewish holiday commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after their victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C. There was only enough consecrated oil in the temple lamp to burn for a day, but the oil lasted seven more days, which was considered a miracle. So for eight days each winter, people celebrate this miracle during Hanukkah by honoring light and oil as a way of giving thanks. Because of the oil lasting, foods fried in oil such as potato pancakes (latkes) and jelly-filled doughnuts (sufganiyot) are popular treats. Spinning a four-sided top called a dreidel and exchanging small gifts are also popular traditions.

Kwanzaa- December 26 – January 1

Founded in 1966 and celebrated in the U.S. and Canada, Kwanzaa celebrates African American family, community, and culture. There are seven principles honored during this week-long observance: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The holiday lasts 7 days. On the sixth day, African’s have a big feast called Kwanzaa Karamu, and gifts are given to loved ones. They also hold special performances of traditional music and light the Kinara. 

Saint Lucia Day- December 13th

The start of the Christmas season in most Scandinavian countries. “Lucia” means light, which is a theme throughout the celebration. They gather in the streets where the girls wear white dresses and carry lingonberry branches with candles, and boys wear white robes and pointed hats. Throughout the city, families celebrate by feasting on ginger snaps and saffron-flavored buns.

Yule- The Winter Solstice

Originating in Northern Europe, Yule is also celebrated by modern Pagans and Wiccans in the United States. Yule originated as a midwinter feast where a Yule log was burned and bonfires were lit in celebration of the heat, light, and life-giving powers of the returning sun. Keeping a bit of the Yule log, or its ashes, was thought to bring good luck and often kept for the next year’s celebration.

Whatever you celebrate, we wish you Happy Holidays!

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