The winter season is upon us, and every family is bound to celebrate in some sort of way. Whether it is Hanukkah or Christmas, the holidays are a time to bring loved ones close together.
Hanukkah: Dec. 2 to Dec. 10 (for 2018)
Hanukkah, one of the largest Jewish festivals, celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This eight-day celebration takes place from the 25th day of Kislev (third month of the Hebrew calendar) to the second day of Tevet (fourth month of the Hebrew calendar). One of the main traditions is the lighting of the Menorah, a nine-branched ceremonial lamp where each candle is placed and blessed each night. A Torah reading takes place each day, which recalls the dedication of the Mishkan by the Israelites in the desert. During the festival, families come together to sing carols and classic songs around the Menorah. In addition to music, a large part of Hanukkah is the food. Family and friends often gather to have feasts: some traditional foods include latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts). Typically, younger children receive gelt (Yiddish for money), in the form of either chocolate coins or real gold coins. In many families, people enjoy playing the dreidel. There are even gambling games where players predict which side the dreidel will land on in exchange for money.
Ethan Sloate (11): “My favorite part of Hanukkah is when we go to my cousin’s house and exchange gifts with friends and family. It brings everyone together, and it’s really fun.”
Christmas: Dec. 25
As one of the most popular holidays of the winter season, Christmas, usually associated with Christmas trees and Santa Claus, is a Christian celebration that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Even though Christmas is only a day long, the excitement starts long before then during Advent, a four-week period of anticipation and preparation for the birth of Christ. Families come together to decorate the Christmas tree, even hanging lights and decorations around and outside of the house. People shop for presents to give to friends and family, as gift-giving has become synonymous with this time of year. When the anticipated holiday arrives, families gather around the tree to open and exchange these gifts. Children eagerly await for the arrival of Santa Claus, a symbol often associated with Christmas, to bring them their Christmas gifts. Despite the glitz and glamor of lights and presents, Christmas is a time where families cherish each others’ company.
Johan Obillos (11): “My favorite part of Christmas is when the whole family gets together because my sister lives in San Francisco and it’s nice when she’s home. Every year, we always stay up till midnight to open presents and then go to my aunt’s house the next day to eat food. My dad usually grills pork chops or ribs, and we always eat rice.”
Kwanzaa: Dec. 26 to Jan. 1
This seven day festival celebrates African American culture and history. Each of the seven days represents the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Similar to Hanukkah, there is the lighting of a candle, called the kinara, where each candle is lit on each of the days. Food is also a huge part of Kwanzaa, where typical flavors include a mix of sweet and spicy with lots of fruits and meats.
New Year’s: Jan. 1
Each year, the highly anticipated New Year’s Eve arrives, and family and friends gather together to celebrate the beginning of a new year. Traditionally, people create New Year’s resolutions, a goal that they hope to achieve in honor of a “fresh start.” People often dress up to celebrate the end of the year with loved ones. As the clock approaches midnight, everyone comes together to count down to the last remaining seconds of the year, screaming and shouting when the new year begins.
Ashley Lee (12): “Every year, my family has this huge party where all of our friends and family come over. We eat a lot of food, sing to karaoke, and watch the ball drop. It’s one of my favorite times of year.”