Holidays in December


Lei Meers

Bodhi Day, a Buddhist holiday in December, commemorates Buddha who is shown in drawing above, with holly and snow to showcase elements of the holiday season.

Kourtney Allee, Co-Head Editor

Dec. is considered one of the greatest months of the year, with festive music, celebrations, and decorations. In the United States, Christmas seems to be what everyone is talking about and preparing for. Yet, there are so many other holidays in the month of Dec. that rarely get mentioned. Here are five holidays you might not be familiar with in December 2021.

St. Nicholas Day:
St. Nicholas Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Nicholas, is observed in Western Christian Countries on Dec. 6 and in Eastern Christian Countries on Dec. 19.
On the eve of this day, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas), along with his sidekick Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), make a nocturnal visit to children around the world. On Dec. 5, children leave their shoes outside their bedroom door. That night, either sweet treats, from Sinterklaas, or coal, from his alter ego Zwarte Piet, are left in the shoes.
Sweet delicacies of all kinds, such as oranges (or tangerines), gold coins, candy canes, mixed nuts, chocolate, cookies, and other types of candies, can be discovered in the shoes. Oranges and gold coins are particularly prevalent. According to Britannica, they “represent St. Nicholas’s legendary rescue of three impoverished girls by paying their marriage dowries with gold.”
Other traditions include children leaving letters to St. Nicholas and grass/carrots for his donkey or horse under their pillows for treats instead.
On St. Nicholas Day, feasts are held in honor of the 4th-century bishop of Myra and patron saint of Russia. The day calls for attending Mass or other worship services, singing and spending time with family and friends.

Bodhi Day:
Buddha, a religious teacher/leader who lived in ancient India in the 5th century BCE, is celebrated on Bodhi Day, a Buddhist celebration observed this year on Dec. 8. Depending on the country, this holiday is observed on different days.
Bodhi Day’s traditions vary on what different sects of Buddhists believe happened during Siddhartha Buddha’s enlightenment and awakening. In the Pali Canon, Buddha described his enlightenment in three stages. The first two stages are debatable in Buddhism, but all Buddhists agree on the third: he realized the “Four Noble Truths” and reached “Nirvana.”
Unlike many other festivals, Bodhi Day is commemorated in silence and peace. The day is set aside for prayer and meditation. Many Buddhist ideas and the Dharma (a religious moral code) are studied. Buddha is placed around the home, and some people even put lights and other decorations on a Bodhi tree. According to Glebe School, “Candles will be lit for 30 days and a traditional meal of rice and milk will be eaten. This was the first meal the Buddha ate after he reached enlightenment under the tree.”
Saint Lucia Day:
Also called the Feast of Saint Lucy, this Christian holiday is celebrated on Dec. 13. St. Lucia, one of the earliest Christian Martyrs, was killed for her religious beliefs by the Romans on Dec. 13. 304 CE. This day celebrates and honors her sacrifice and “marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Scandinavia.” (Britannica)
In these Scandinavian countries, school generally closes at noon, so families can prepare for the holiday. One of their, generally eldest, daughters serves baked goods (saffron bread and gingersnaps are most common) and coffee, while dressed in white with a crown of candles on her head. As she serves the sweet treats, it reminds them of the real reason Christmas is celebrated and the light of the world, Jesus Christ. Traditional songs are sung and depending on the town, town-led festivities are held.

Yule, a Germanic festival, will take place from Dec. 21, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022. The celebrations begin on Dec. 21, not only because it is the shortest day of the year, but also because it represents the end of fall and the beginning of winter. Yule’s origins can be traced back to the pagan Anglo-Saxon god Mdraniht and the god Odin. “Rituals and traditions that honor nature and setting one’s intentions for the coming season” are the main focus of celebrating Yule, which commemorates the winter solstice. (Sunset)
Due to Christianization, Yule’s celebration methods have shifted over time. Christmas traditions and rituals such as the Yule boar, Yule goat, Yule log, and Yule singing are still practiced today to celebrate Yule. Individuals and families celebrate Yule in a variety of ways. The majority of them focus on honoring nature, such as creating a Yule Altar, which consists of groups of candles surrounded by winter materials such as pine cones and evergreen branches. The candles are meant to represent the sun’s return and how important it is for human life.
Another way Yule is celebrated is by making evergreen wreaths. In the ancient pagan culture, protection and prosperity were associated with evergreens. Many who celebrate Yule build a wreath for their doorway and Yule altar, sometimes gifting one. Nature-based gifts are commonly given to others such as plant-based candles, crystals and seeds.

Kwanzaa, derived from a phrase in Swahili, “matunda ya Kwanzaa,” which means “first fruits,” is celebrated this year from Dec. 26, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022. Kwanzaa is a time to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day of Kwanzaa, a set of ideals called the Nguzo Saba, created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, is emphasized. The seven principles are outlined below:
1. Umoja: Unity- “To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.”
2. Kujichagulia: Self-determination- “To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.
3. Ujima: Collective Work and Responsibility- “To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.”
4. Ujamaa: Cooperative Economics- “To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.”
5. Nia: Purpose- “To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.”
6. Kuumba: Creativity- “To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.”
7. Imani: Faith- “To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.”
All principles are according to the Smithsonian: National Museum of African American History and Culture.
To represent the seven principles, seven items fill a Kwanzaa display: a mat, candle holder that holds the seven candles, a unity cup, crops (fruits, vegetables and nuts), ear of corn (symbolizes fertility) and lastly gifts (usually handmade and are reserved for children).
Each day, a different color candle is lit. A black candle, which symbolizes unity, is lit first and then a red candle (which represents the struggle/bloodshed of peoples in the past). The third is a green candle which represents Earth and then the “candles alternate until day seven is reached.” (Oprah Daily)
The purpose of Kwanzaa, founded in 1966 in the United States, is to contemplate the theme of the day and celebrate African heritage.

Dec. is a joyous month when religions and cultures celebrate/commemorate events and traditions. When individuals and communities are able to come together and join in unity. Be mindful of the different holidays and celebrations around the world this holiday season!