Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Joyous Kwanzaa. Blessed Eid.
The Catholic faith shares in the season of Advent through the month of December until the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ on Dec. 25. Through the four weeks of Advent, Catholics are called to prepare for the coming of Christ through reflection, fasting, and the lighting of candles to signify each of the four weeks leading up until Christmas.
Although the holiday commemorates Jesus Christ, it is not his birth date. Early Christians believe it is the day he was conceived. Those who celebrate Christmas give gifts as a symbol of the faithful wise men who brought Jesus gifts the day he was born. Other symbols, such as holly, ivy and berries are used to symbolize the Crown of Thorns. Christmas is celebrated all over the world with another figure, Saint Nicholas, although his story and involvement in Christmas varies from culture to culture.
Though not a religion per se, Kwanzaa is a tradition that commemorates thousands of African American heritages through the creation of art, gift giving, and dance. The seven-day celebration begins on Dec. 26, with each day celebrating a different principle of African tradition. Like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa also involves a candleholder with several candles, called a kinara. In celebration, families light a new candle each day, signifying one of the seven principles. African-Americans who celebrate Kwanzaa often wear traditional African clothing and take part in African heritage celebrations involving dancing and drumming. Unlike most other winter holidays, which have their roots in ancient celebrations, the African-American holiday Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966.
The Jewish celebrate Hanukkah to commemorate the rededication of the Holy temple in Jerusalem after having once been seized by Syrian-Greek soldiers. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah starts on Dec. 1. Families often exchange gifts during this eight-day celebration. along with the lighting of a new candle for each day on a menorah. Children usually get money or small presents during Hanukkah. Fried foods are common for Jews during the holidays, as Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, which founded this religious holiday. “In a global melting pot era that seeks to erode our convictions and challenge our individualism, the menorah refuses to melt away,” said Boise Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz in a recent article on the Jewish news site Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “This simple, unwavering beacon of light looms as a proud fortress of Jewish spirit and values.”
The Hindu faith celebrates a five-day festival in the celebration of Lord Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture. Pancha Ganapati is a modern Hindu festival of the Five-Faced (pancha means “five”) Maha Ganapati – Lord of Categories. This festival lasts from Dec. 21 to Dec. 25. Pancha Ganapati is a Hindu expression of the natural season of worship, gift giving and celebration. The festival calls religious followers to mend old mistakes and begin anew. Families observe the holiday by creating a Pancha Ganapati shrine to which the family members decorate to commemorate Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha is often depicted as coming from the forest, so worshipers use pine boughs or banana leaves. Flashing lights, tinsel and colorful hanging ornaments may also be added. Children redress Pancha Ganapati each day of the holiday in different colors to symbolize different things.On Dec. 21, he is dressed in a golden yellow; on Dec. 22, he is dressed in royal
He appears in golden yellow on December 21. A regal gown of royal blue is presented to Him on December 22, and one of ruby red on the 23rd. On December 24 He appears in emerald green, and on the final day He comes forth in brilliant orange to bless all who visit Him, bestowing 365 days of wealth and abundance. During each of the five days of Pancha Ganapati, chants, songs, hymns and bhajanas are sung in His praise.
On Nov. 16, Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha, or the feast of the sacrifice. It is the second major Muslim festival.
“It’s the tradition of Prophet Abraham … about the dream of him sacrificing his son, and then … sacrificing the sheep,” said Hosy Nasimi, a senior psychology major. Nasimi was born in Afghanistan and grew up there and in Pakistan.
“So there’s that part of the history as well as that he, with his son, built the Kaaba,” Nasimi said. The Kaaba is a Muslim shrine in the Saudi city of Mecca. “So basically it’s the performing of the pilgrimage, (in the) steps of Prophet Abraham.”
At least once in their lifetimes, Muslims must go on pilgrimage to Mecca if they can afford it. Eid al-Adha is the last day of the annual pilgrimage, or hajj. On that day, Muslims attend morning prayer. Then they sacrifice an animal if they can afford it. They keep some of the meat and donate the rest to the poor. Afterward, Muslims celebrate with their families by eating the meat and other food. Often children will get small gifts and candy. Nasimi said that Boise Muslims reserve a room at Boise State every year for the morning prayer.
“At least in Boise we try to have community celebration because of the fact that not everyone here has a relative,” Nasimi said. “So normally we do have, like, after the prayer we go to the mosque for a breakfast or a brunch, depending on our budget.”
Whatever the name may be, the holiday season is a time for families to come together and give thanks in commemoration and celebration. Though the holidays are often commercialized into garlands of pine-scented decorations, mint candy canes, and plump snowmen singing of sugar cookies and marshmallows, most religions share a strong foundation to which families follow throughout the holiday season. These religious faiths all draw from unique histories to which manifest themselves into holidays all celebrated in the month of December.
This article was written by Journalists Stephanie Scheibe and Samantha Royce. Photos by Glenn Landberg, Nik Bjurstrom and courtesy MCT Campus.