They're stealin' our holidays!!
A little piece of religious studies education.
Some world holidays from late autumn to winter:
Diwali: The “festival of lights.” Hindus celebrate the rescue of Sita by her brave husband Rama, lighting candles to guide them home through the dark night. Feasting and family gatherings abound.
Chanukah: The “festival of lights.” Jews celebrate a miracle of YHWH that allowed the Menorah to burn for eight nights during the re-dedication of the temple. Feasting, candles, gift giving, family time, etc.
Saturnalia: A Roman feast dedicated to the fertility deity, Saturn. Celebrated as the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the Sun God, during the late Roman period. Gift giving, partying, feasting, and wax candles.
Mōdraniht: An Anglo (Celtic?) midwinter festival mentioned by Bede. Probably a time of making sacrifices to the Matronae asking for their blessings and warmth during the long nights. Feasting, community and family time, and probably lights, since, you know, there’s a pattern going here.
Yule (traditional): A Germanic/Scandinavian Midwinter festival honoring fertility deities such as Freyr and Thor. Feasting, lighting fires, community merrymaking, swearing oaths for the new year, and possibly an increase in spiritual activity between the realms of the living and the dead (Odin’s Wild Hunt).
Alban Arthan: “Light of Winter.” A Celtic/Welsh winter solstice celebration marking the longest night and subsequent return of light (the clash of the Holly King and the Oak King). Feasting, mistletoe, and, in Welsh tradition, the birthday of Pryderi by Rhiannon. Sometimes called Meán Geimhridh (Midwinter).
Soyal: A festival celebrated by the Hopi and Zuni nations to welcome back the sun into the world after the longest night. Community blessing, singing, dancing, feasting, and sometimes gifts of kachina replicas for children. A time of setting intentions for the coming season.
Goru: A celebration of the Dogon people of Mali honoring the arrival of humankind via the sky God Amma who arrived in the “Ark of the World.” Offerings to ancestors, feasting, and community gatherings.
Yalda: A Persian winter solstice celebration with Zoroastrian roots. A time of eating special foods, lighting candles, and gathering together with one’s family. When celebrated as part of the religion of Mithraism, this morning after the longest night was believed to be the birthday of Mithra, the angel of light and truth.
Feast of Rozhanitsa: A Russian/East Slavic feast in honor of the antlered winter goddess, Rozhanitsa. Offerings of sweet honey and bread, the making of colorful embroidery, and the gifting of white, deer shaped cookies.
Ziemassvētki: A Latvian/Baltic festival celebrating the birth of Dievs, the high God of light in the Latvian religion. The lighting of fires, community singing and celebration, and a feast for the spirits of the dead believed to arrive on this night in a sleigh.
Şeva Zistanê: “The Night of Winter.” A Kurdish festival honoring the rebirth of the sun. Later seen as a day of victory for God and the angels. Feasting, candles, and the giving of sweets to children.
Christmas: A Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus, the son of God, and the star that shone over his birthplace in Bethlehem guiding travelers to him. Feasting, family gatherings, singing special festival songs, lighting candles and trees, and gift giving.
Mawlid: A late winter festival celebrated in some regions of the Islamic world commemorating the birth of the Prophet. A nighttime festival celebrated with community gatherings, feasting, and public sermons. Earlier celebrations in regions with Sufic influence included animal sacrifice and the lighting of torches.
Kwanzaa: An African American holiday celebrating the blessings of the harvest season and a renewed sense of shared cultural heritage. Decorating the home, lighting candles, feasting, music, and giving respect and offerings to the ancestors.
Yule (Neopagan): A winter solstice celebration commemorating the birth/return of the God (of Light). Feasting, the lighting of the Yule log, and enjoying the warmth of the community during the longest night.
Festivus: For “the rest of us.” A Seinfield-inspired festival for celebrating the winter holiday without the pressures of religion or commercialism.
And many, many more that I have regrettably missed (and hopefully not too many that I have buggered up here).
The long nights of winter and promise of the returning sun inspired countless cultures to gather together, celebrate the warmth of their community through feasting and partying, and light fires to sustain them through the long night. Some customs have influenced others, but nobody owns the rights to this season. There are countless unique cultural celebrations inspired by the astronomical phenomena of the winter season.
Nobody is a “thief” for celebrating their traditional or chosen winter holiday (and believe me, I’m not just talking to the Christians when I say this). Likewise, nobody is trying to “be different” or “ruin it for everyone else” by celebrating something less mainstream during this season. These are all holidays. There are tons of them. They have similarities, and they have differences.
But they’re all equally valid.
11 Winter Holidays You Might Not Know About
Maybe “Happy Holidays” is the most appropriate greeting.
As we celebrate the season — or as some conservatives would have it — wage our ‘War on Christmas’ — lets take a look at winter holidays from cultures around the world, which are also celebrated in this country:
1. Chanukah. Oh, sure most people know that Jews celebrate this holiday around the same time as Christmas, but many don’t really know why. Chanukah is not a “Jewish Christmas” as some might believe. First of all, the date is not arrived at in the same way as Christmas: it falls on the 25th day of Kislev in the Jewish calendar, which is lunar-based. While some reform Jews have adopted some of the secular trappings of the holiday, the meaning is quite different. Chanukah is a celebration of an event in the history of the Jews, when one night’s supply of oil lasted a miraculous eight nights during the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. Chanukah is not the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar, its significance being far less than Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavu’ot. Chanukah is going on right now, from December 8 until the 16th.
2. Winter Solstice. Not only is the Solstice the only secular observance during this period, it also is the oldest. This solstice, the Winter Solstice, occurs on the 21st of December and is commonly acknowledged as the beginning of winter. It is the longest night of the year. The reason for this is that the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, shining directly on the Tropic of Capricorn. We should remember that this only applies to the Northern Hemisphere. Those who live in the Southern Hemisphere will be observing the longest day.
3. Yule. This is the religious observance of the Solstice, practiced by most modern-day Pagans. The longest night is when the Holly King, the ruler of the waning half of the year, gives his crown over to the Oak King who presides over the waxing half of the year. Yule is the day when the sun “returns” and the year begins to grow light again. One can imagine that, in ancient times, there would have been the fear that perhaps the sun might not return, so fires are a tradition on this night. Bonfires and Yule logs are still part of modern Yule celebrations.
4. Rohatsu. Better known as Bodhi Day, this Buddhist holiday falls on December 8th. Buddhists celebrate it as the day the Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting in meditation under the bodhi tree. Tibetan Buddhists celebrate this event in June, while Theravada Buddhists do so in May. This particular day is observed mostly by Japanese Zen Buddhists, who may spend the day in meditation, studying Buddhists texts or chanting. Others may perform kind acts towards others. Traditionally, a meal of cake and tea is taken.
5. Ramadan. Some years, the month of Ramadan ends about now which means that Eid-al-Fitr, the Breaking of the Fast, will occur in December. If this happens then Laylat al-Qadr will also fall in this month. On this day, the Muslims celebrate the first revelation of the Qu’ran to Mohammed. This year, those holidays fell in the summer.
6. Masa’il and Sharaf. Those of the Baha’i faith celebrate the start of two different months of their year in our December. The Baha’i calendar consists of 19 months of 19 days. They even out the years by adding a leap year, much as we do, every four years. The months are named after the attributes of God. Baha’i communities hold a Nineteen Day Feast on the first day of each month in their calendar.
7. Maunajiyara. This is a quiet day in the Jain religion, a day of fasting, silence and meditation. This day honors the monks, teachers and religious leaders of Jainism. Jains fast on all of their holy days. They believe that the soul is eternal and has infinite power and knowledge and use fasting as one way to help them reach that power and knowledge. Jainism is an extremely gentle religion: Jains take great care not to harm any living creature.
8. Gur-purab. The Sikhs commemorate the anniversaries of important events in the lives of the Ten Gurus. Guru Nanak’s gurpurab is celebrated during pooran mashi, the full moon, in late November or early December. This festive occasion often lasts several days and nights. Guru Gobind Singh’s Birth and the shaheed, or martyrdom, of his four sons are observed during winter holidays in late December with rainsabaee kirtan, an all night worship service.
9. Ghambar Maidyarem. Zoroastrians celebrate Ghambar Maidyarem from December 31 through January 1 as the time of the creation of earth’s animals. The ghambars occur six times a year and each reflects one of the six “primordial creations” of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian deity. The anniversary of Zoroaster’s death, known as Zartosht No-Diso, is observed on the 26th of December. And 100 days after the solstice, Sadeh occurs, a mid-winter festival of fire.
10. Kwanzaa. The newest holiday on the list, Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach in 1966. He was searching for a way to bring the African-American community together. His research hit upon the African “first fruit” celebrations and he decided to combine and build on those traditions. The name is derived from the name for the Swahili first fruit celebration, “matunda ya kwanza.” The holiday is marked by family traditions which may include storytelling, dancing, singing, drumming and traditional meals. The Kinara is central to the celebration and holds seven candles, one for each of the Nguzo Saba, the values or principles of the African culture. These are: umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (a sense of purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith). The festival culminates in the great feast of karamu on December 31.
11. The Establishment of the Celestial Cow. The Kemetic Orthodox — a reconstruction of Egyptian polytheism practiced by 10,000 people worldwide — celebrate the Divine Cow, who gave birth to the heavens. Family gatherings, food, and gifts mark this holiday, which occurs four days after the winter solstice (the typical duration of labor for a cow), and lights symbolize the stars.
As we can see, the best greeting for this time of year really is “Happy Holidays.” That way, you’re pretty much covered and everyone spreads the cheer. And as for this so-called “war on Christmas:, it behooves us to remember that it in no way belittles nor degrades our own holiday to acknowledge others. When you say, “Happy Holidays!” you are saying, “we all celebrate something this time of year; may your holiday be as wonderful and joyous for you as mine is for me.” And I so wish it. Happy Holidays, everyone!
DOWNLOAD: Eos - Winter Solstice (2.9.12)
1. Collect Call (Adventure Club Remix) – Metric w/Summit (Original Mix) – Skrillex w/We Found Love (Eos Remix)
2. Breathe (Vocal Edit) – Skrillex w/Eyes on Fire (VIP Mix) – Zeds Dead
3. Amnesia (Cazzetes Another Sugar Hunt Mix) w/Summit (Michael White Remix) – Skrillex w/Eyes on Fire (VIP Mix) – Zeds Dead
4. Look Into My Fiery Eyes (Eos Mashup) w/ Interent Friends (Original Mix) – Knife Party w/Skyward II (Original Mix) – Xilent
5. Chicken and Champagne (Dubstep Mix) Melleefresh & Shimmer Baby vs SpekrFreaks w/Dying (Original Mix) – Kill the Noise ft. Ultraviolet Sound & Emily Hudson
6. Ghouls (The New Team Remix) – We Are The Scientists w/Devils Den (Original Mix) – Skrillex & Wolfgang Gartner w/Internet Friends (Original Mix) – Knife Party
7. Whiskers (Original Mix) – Feed Me & Gemini
8. Internet Rebellion (Original Mix) – Arion w/You Got To Go (Seven Lions Remix) – Above and Beyond Ft. Zoe Johnson
9. Youth (Adventure Club Remix) – Foxes w/Pressure (Alesso Remix) – Starkillers ft. Nadia Ali w/ You Got To Go (Seven Lions Remix) – Above and Beyond Ft. Zoe Johnson
10. Runnin (Vip Mix) – Cutline ft. Belle Humble
11. Paradise (Fedde Le Grand Remix) – Coldplay w/Drop it (Original Mix) – Killa Graham
12. Who’s Gonna Save Us (Original Mix) – Revolvr ft. Sue Cho
13. Sending My Love (Afrojack Edit) – R3hab & Swanky Tunes ft. Max C. w/ Adrenaline (Original Mix) – Zeds Dead
14. Broken Souvenirs (Exteneded Mix) – Millions Like Us ft. SOFI w/Wake You Up (Original Mix) – Coven
15. Next (Original Mix) – Dubba Jonny
16. Spoon Party (Paradigm Remix) – Devin Martin
17. Somebody To Love (Sigma Remix) – Rusko
18. Lockdown (Bare Noize Remix) – Terravita
19. Voodoo (Bassnectar & Ill Gates Remix) – Bassnectar
20. Hot Right Now (Camo & Crooked Remix) – Dj Fresh ft. Rita Ora w/ Voodoo (Bassnectar & Ill Gates Remix) – Bassnectar
21. Must Be the Feeling (Delta Heavy) – Nero
22. Super Best Friends (Original Mix) – Popeska w/Pink Lady (Original Mix) – Feed Me
23. Bangarang (Original Mix) – Skrillex w/One Click Headshot (Original Mix) – Feed Me
24. ID – Eos