“Happy Holidays”

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Some people tend to forget that there are other holidays in December besides Christmas.

In fact, most people end up saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” With how many holidays there are in December, I believe it is much more proper to say “Happy Holidays” because not everyone celebrates Christmas. You never know who doesn’t celebrate Christmas unless you ask them.

There are holidays from around the world during December: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka, and of course, New Year’s Eve.

Not everyone celebrates Christmas the same way that Americans do. Instead of putting out milk and cookies for Santa Claus, in England the children put out mince pies and brandy.

In Iceland, the capital city Reykjavik turns into a beautiful Winter wonderland. They don’t have just one Santa Claus, but they have thirteen and they’re known as “Yule Lads”.  One Santa arrives each night in the thirteen days before Christmas. Instead of leaving gifts under the tree or at the fireplace, the people of Iceland leave small gifts in the shoes that the children leave in the windowsills.

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration that honors the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt. The Maccabean Revolt was a Jewish rebellion lasting 167 to 160 BC.

Hanukkah is also known as the “Festival of Lights.”

Hanukkah celebrations revolve around lighting the Menorah, on each of the eight nights, another candle is added to the Menorah after sundown. The ninth candle that’s used to light the other candles is called the shamash, helper.

Oftentimes, during the lighting of the Menorah, blessings are recited and traditional foods like potato pancakes (latkes”) and jam filled donuts (“sufganiyot”) are served.

Kwanzaa was created after the Watts riots in Los Angeles. The Watts Riots were sometimes referred to as the “Watts Rebellion”, the Watts riots took place in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles from August 11th to 16th in 1965. The holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966.

Dr. Maulana Karenga was originally known as Ron Karenga, he was born July 14, 1941, he is an African-American professor of Africana studies, activist, and author. He has written nine books.

The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili.

Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven nights. On each of those nights, families gather and one of the children lights one of the candles on the Kinara. After that, one of the seven principles or values of African culture, is then discussed.

Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but those celebrations often include songs and dances with African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal. That traditional meal is called Karamu. Karamu Ya Imani, (Feast of Feasts), is a feast that takes place December 31st, the sixth day of the Kwanzaa period.

Ōmisoka, the Japanese New Year’s Eve, is the second most important day in Japanese tradition, as it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year’s Day, the most important day of the year. Families gather on Ōmisoka for one last time in the old year to have a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon, a tradition based on eating the long noodles to cross over from one year to the next.

At midnight, many visit the shrines or temples for Hatsumōde, Shinto shrines prepare amazake, a traditional sweet, low alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice, to pass out to the crowds of people.

After knowing about these different holidays that are celebrated in December, it seems to be more appropriate to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”