CHANUKAH (alternately spelled Hanukkah)
Chanukah, meaning “dedication” in Hebrew, refers to the joyous eight-day celebration during which Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the armies of Syria in 165 B.C.E. and the subsequent liberation and “rededication” of the Temple in Jerusalem. The modern home celebration of Chanukah centers around the lighting of the hanukkiyah, a special menorah for Chanukah; foods prepared in oil including latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts); and special songs and games. Hanukkah begins in the evening of December 12, 2017 and ends in the evening of December 20, 2017.
Christmas is both a sacred Christian religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, Son of Man and Son of God, sent by God. They believe that Jesus, by dying and rising from the dead, made up for the sin of Adam and thus redeemed the world, allowing all who believe in him to enter heaven. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University. After the Watts riots in Los Angeles, Dr. Karenga searched for ways to bring African-Americans together as a community. Karenga combined aspects of several different harvest celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the basis of Kwanzaa.
The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili. Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, often with song and dance, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder), then one of the seven principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are discussed. An African feast, called a Karamu, is held on December 31. Kwanzaa begins December 26, 2017 and ends January 1, 2018.