‘Tis the Season

Many holidays make their appearance in December, but most are obscured by Christmas’ shadow.

Sammi Tester, Columnist

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Any American that doesn’t celebrate Christmas might be feeling a little out of place around this time of the year, referred to as the “Christmas season” by many people. Four of the more popular holidays that are celebrated in December are Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, and, of course, Christmas.

Hanukkah is the Jewish holiday in which a candle is lit on each of the eight nights. The candle in the center, called the shamash or attendant, is used to light all the other candles. Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the oil that lasted eight nights. During the reign of Antiochus IV, Jews were being killed and their religion was banned. However, there was a revolution that ended with the Temple being rededicated. During the rededication, there was only enough oil to burn for one night, but it lasted for eight nights. During Hanukkah, there are traditions such as playing dreidel and eating oil-based or fried foods. I never heard of a dreidel until my sixth grade year when we were learning about different religions in school. If that doesn’t tell you about how little attention Hanukkah gets, I don’t know what does. This year, Hanukkah falls on Dec. 16 and finishes on Dec. 24. That means we have school for four days of Hanukkah, but are out of school on Christmas Eve.

Winter Solstice is always on Dec. 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere because of the position of the Earth in relation to the sun. Winter Solstice has the earliest sunrise and latest sunset of the year, making it the shortest day and longest night. After Winter Solstice, the days start to get longer and nights shorter. Different cultures have different ways of celebrating Winter Solstice, but some examples of how it is celebrated are festivals, feasts, and gatherings of families. The Chinese celebrate by hanging an unfinished painting of a plum tree and 81 uncolored flowers on the wall. Stonehenge is a popular place for people from everywhere observe the sunrise on Winter Solstice. I know from personal experience that it’s nearly impossible to find any recognition of this holiday in the United States. It would mean the world to me if someone asked me about the holiday or even just told me “Happy Winter Solstice.”

Kwanzaa is an African-American and Pan-American holiday that celebrates the African culture. It is always from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Kwanzaa celebrates Nguzo Saba, or The Seven Principles. The Seven Principles (in English) are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. There are seven symbols of Kwanzaa: the crops, the mat, the candle holder, the corn, the seven candles, the unity cups, and the gifts. Gifts are usually given to children, but they must include a book and a heritage symbol. During Kwanzaa, there is a celebration and on the last day there is a meditation. Kwanzaa seems like it has much more meaning than most other holidays. This year, I suggest we all take a little time out of the hustle and bustle of our own holiday and have a small, peaceful meditation.

Christmas is on Dec. 25 every year. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is a very popular holiday throughout the world for Christians and non-religious families alike. There are many decorations for the Christmas holiday, but the Christmas tree is the most popular. On Christmas, families and friends give presents and it’s popular to sing or listen to Christmas songs. The radio station 99.9 makes it easier to listen to your favorite seasonal songs. Yes, there’s a public radio station that dedicates the month of December and some of November to playing nothing but Christmas songs.

All of these holidays seem pretty fun to celebrate so why are we only seeing commercials for Christmas on air? According to the Washington Times, 90 percent of all Americans celebrate Christmas. I can’t remember the last time I saw a commercial for a menorah or a dreidel. I don’t see any Kwanzaa flags around Target this time of the year. These are two holidays that Americans do celebrate. I would understand if these holidays were not as popular as Christmas because not as many people celebrate them but maybe I want to know Hanukkah songs like I know Christmas carols. I understand why Christmas is getting all this publicity, but it might be getting a little out of control. If your religion prevents you from celebrating Hanukkah, consider enjoying the winter season, like the Winter Solstice does, or celebrate your culture, like Kwanzaa allows. Sadly, the reality is that not as many people even know what Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or the Winter Solstice celebrate.

Is this the year that I will finally see a little diversity in the media? Probably not. It would have to take a lot of change the way the public views December. I don’t see December as “Christmas season,” I see December as a time winter begins and families are together.

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