Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa this week, one thing they all have in common is the emphasis on gathering together, sharing meals, and giving. Religious freedom and inclusivity is something we really value as we strive to build communities that celebrate diversity and the common threads of humanity that connect us all.
This week Hanukkah began December 22 and goes through December 30. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was destroyed. Each night throughout the 8 day holiday, a candle or oil-based light is lit. Many families exchange small gifts each night, such as books or games, and "Hanukkah Gelt" (chocolate coins) is often given to children. Fried foods such as latkes and doughnuts are eaten to commemorate the importance of oil during the celebration of Hanukkah.
Christmas is an annual commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated generally on December 25 as a religious and cultural holiday by billions of people around the world. Christmas is also celebrated as a secular holiday by many non-Christians. Although the month and date of Jesus' birth are unknown, the church in the early fourth century fixed the date as December 25, which corresponds to the date of the solstice on the Roman calendar.
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st in the United States, as well as other countries with populations of African descendants. Kwanzaa is a holiday tradition that is based on the “first harvest” celebrations in Africa. Some families stick with strictly Kwanzaa related practices, while other families mix elements of Kwanzaa into their Christmas celebrations. However, most Kwanzaa celebrations are based on Nguzo Saba – or the seven principles of Kwanzaa which are:
- Umoja (Unity): Striving for and maintaining unity in the family and the community.
- Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): Defining oneself and speaking for oneself
- Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): Building and maintaining a community and making our brother’s and sister’s problems our own and solve them together
- Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): Building and maintaining our businesses for ourselves and each other
- Nia (Purpose): To build and develop our collective communities together
- Kuumba (Creativity): To do whatever we can to leave our communities more beautiful than when we inherited them
- Imani (Faith): To believe with our hearts in our people, our families and the righteousness of our struggle
No matter how you are celebrating this week, we wish you a joyous holiday season filled with love and laughter!