The American Christmas Season, Other Cultures’ Holidays

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Jewish-American

Although the Jewish do not celebrate Christmas and the Christ Child, they perform their own holiday commemoration on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev called Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights.

This marks the historic tradition of the Judah Maccabee’s Rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem before the birth of Christ. Tradition says that later, after triumphing over their enemies and at the blessing of the temple, there just was enough sacred olive oil to burn the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Extraordinarily, the oil burned for eight days.

The celebration is reminiscent of the miracle. One light is lit each night of Hanukkah on a Menorah Candelabrum, and the extra light lit each night called Shammash is use the lights of the Hanukiah for illuminatingAfter completing the lighting and a short prayer Hanerot Halalu, the Ma’oz Tzur or the “Rock of Ages” hymn which was written in medieval Germany, is sung. Some other songs that are used for the celebration include Hanukkiah Li Yesh or “I Have a Hanukkah Menora” and Haneirot Halolu or “These Candles which we light.”

Muslim-American

Most of the Islamic religions have their own holiday in December entitled Eid al-Adha at the close of Hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca. This trip is in remembrance of the trials and triumphs of the Prophet Abraham or Ibrahim as described in the Qur’an.

After the ceremonial trip, they enjoy a festival that lasts three days, the Eid al-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice. On the first morning of the celebration, Muslims attend morning prayers at their mosques. Afterwards, they exchange gifts. Members of their family then sacrifice an animal while pronouncing the name of Allah. One third of the meat is given to the poor, one-third is given to friends, and the last portion to their immediate family. This symbolizes their willingness to give something away in order to follow Allah’s commands.

Kwanzaa

In the Sixties, however, another tradition for the season began called Kwanzaa. This originated as an observance for the African heritage of African-Americans from Swahili.

Starting on December 26 and lasting for a week, family gathers, presents are exchanged and a sequence of black, red and green candles is lit. These symbolize the seven fundamental principles for the African-American family unit including collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity, faith, purpose, self-determination, and unity.

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