girl with menorah
Hanukkah This year, Hanukkah begins at sunset on December 1. Also known as the Festival of Lights, the dates of the eight-day celebration change yearly and can occur in November or December. When the Maccabees successfully rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day. Hanukkah is observed by lighting the menorah candles each night of the eight days. The menorah is a nine-branched candle holder that signifies eight days of light, and one extra called the Shamash, that holds the one candle that lights the others. Other traditions include special songs and prayer, eating foods fried in oil (such as potato latkes, see sidebar for recipe) to signify a miraculous amount of oil for the candles, playing the dreidel game, and giving the gift of Hanukkah gelt (chocolate coins).
Books: Moishe’s Miracle: A Hanukkah Story by Laura Krauss Melmed
The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes by Linda Glaser
Las Posadas Spanish for “the inns”, Las Posadas is celebrated December 16-24 every year. It symbolizes the trials which Mary and Joseph endured before finding a place to stay where Jesus could be born, based on the passage in the New Testament. Originating in Spain, Las Posadas is a yearly tradition for many Catholic Mexicans and some other Latin Americans. The holiday often includes the acting out of Mary and Joseph traveling to find a place to stay so Jesus could be born. Each night, a different family (“innkeepers”) within the community hosts the festivities, often serving dishes such as bunuelos (see sidebar for recipe), and enjoying a traditional piñata.
Books: The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie DePaola
First day of Winter Observe the coldest season of the year on December 21 with comfort food, like chicken and dumplings (see page 52 for recipe). Your children will love using snow spray on windows to add some winter atmosphere to our warm Southwest Florida winters.
Books: Winter Wonderland by Jill Esbaum
One Winter’s Day by M. Christina Butler
Christmas Day Originally known as the Feast of Nativity, Christmas celebrates the traditional birth of Jesus Christ. December 25 is not known to be the actual birthday of Jesus. Some believe the date had been chosen to correspond with the day following exactly nine months after early Christians believed Jesus’ conception to be, while others believe it was the date of the winter solstice on the ancient Roman calendar. Christmas is central to the holiday season. It also represents the beginning of the larger season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the festive days beginning Christmas Day. The twelfth day of Christmas is January 5, which leads to the Epiphany (January 6), which for Christians celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. It falls on January 6th.) Christmas celebrations include gift giving, church services, Christmas trees, as well as the Christmas Day feast. Santa Claus is a well-known folklore figure at Christmas time in many countries, associated with the delivery of gifts for children with his reindeer and sleigh, and has been adopted as a symbol of the holiday season by Christians and non-Christians alike.
You can combine gift giving and special holiday treats by plopping a tasty cupcake into a coffee mug or child’s cup as a great gift idea. Make your own choice of cupcakes and decorate festively. Drop into a mug or child’s cup. Wrap in red or green plastic wrap and ribbons and give as gifts when visiting friends or relatives during holidays
Books: What is Christmas? by Michelle Medlock Adams
Stanley the Christmas Tree: A Wish Come True by R. E. Hughes
The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans
Kwanzaa First celebrated in December 1966, Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration in the U.S. beginning December 26 and ending January 1 every year. The holiday honors the universal African heritage and culture and is marked by the daily lighting of a kinara, which holds seven candles. The candles represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. The name Kwanzaa derives from a Swahili phrase, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” Homes are decorated during Kwanzaa with objects of art, colorful African cloth (black, red and green), and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. In addition to the candle lighting ritual, there typically are artistic performances, and a feast, which can included benne cakes (see sidebar for recipe). Children often make a woven placemat of Kwanzaa colors with construction paper: black (horizontal), and red and green (vertical), which is then laminated.
Books: The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
The Sound of Kwanzaa by Dimitrea Tokunbo
New Year’s Eve While each country has its own unique New Year’s Eve traditions on December, three key elements are common worldwide: parties, fireworks, and good old-fashioned NOISE! In the U.S., a traditional New Year’s Eve meal often features corned beef and cabbage (see sidebar for recipe). Even if they can’t stay up to watch the ball drop over Times Square at midnight, your children can celebrate by creating and hanging a “Happy New Year!” mobile. Use a New Years party hat for the base, and hang horns, whistles and clackers from it. Decorate hat with confetti.
Books: P. Bears New Years Party by Paul Owen Lewis
The Night Before New Year’s by Natasha Wing
No matter which “other” holidays you choose to include in your celebrations, it will be worthwhile fun for your family, even during the busiest of months. Happy Holidays!