Welcome to another “Thoughtful Thursday.” This week I am going to talk about the holidays this time of year. In the Christian world we, of course, celebrate Christmas and the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ. This is celebrated around the world. Many of our customs originally came from the pagan celebrations, such as the Yuletide celebration. A lot of Christians were being persecuted and so they disguised many of their original celebrations with the look of what the pagans were doing. Many of those symbols became very relevant to the Christmas celebration. Even though we know that the birth of the Christ Child actually happened in the spring, most Christians still celebrate in December according to the old customs.
During this time many celebrate what is known as “Yule (Yuletide).” This is a term that most people should be familiar with as several songs we sing around Christmas speak of the “Yule Tide” celebration. Yule is actually celebrated a little bit earlier than Christmas. It is family oriented with a feast and stories of old being told. In addition, each person receives one gift. Yule is an ancient Germanic mid-winter festival. It is celebrated on the day of winter solstice. In pre-Christian times, Yule was a twelve-day festival that began at the winter solstice. It marked the turn from winter to spring. When the Christianization of Europe began, Yule virtually merged with Christian celebrations. Some neopagan movements have revived Yule celebration, although its traditions differ from one neopagan group to another.
Then we have the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. Hanukkah is the “Festival of Lights” and begins on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev and lasts 8 days. In the 2nd century BC, Antiochus outlawed Jewish observance under penalty of death. When the Greeks challenged the jews to sacrifice a pig to a Greek god, a few courageous Jews took to the hills in open revolt. Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion, but after three years the Maccabees beat incredible odds and succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land. When Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem they found the Holy Temple in shambles and desecrated. They cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it on the 25th of Kislev. When it came time to re-light the Menorah, they searched the entire Temple, but only found one jar of pure oil bearing the seal of the High Priest. The group of believers lit the Menorah anyway and were rewarded with a miracle. That small jar of oil burned for eight days until a new supply of oil could be brought. Since that time the Jews have observed a holiday for eight days, in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of oil.
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States and in other nations of the Western African diaspora in the Americas. The celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture and is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st, culminating in a feast and gift-giving. Kwanzaa has seven core principles (Nguzo Saba). It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966-1967.
We hope that this gives you a little peek into the different Celebrations this time of year. However you celebrate your holiday this year, We want to wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Yuletide and Happy Kwanzaa from our family to yours.