And what better month than December?
In anticipation of my own vacation from the diner, I’m going to list a sampling of the holidays that take place in December and some tidbits I've learned about them.
1. Rosa Park’s Day, December 1. You may have missed it, but it’s a significant date. Despite the tradition at the time, Rosa Louise Parks refused to give up her seat to a white male passenger on a Montgomery (Ala.) bus. It happened Dec. 1, 1955, and her bold move jump-started the long overdue civil rights movement in America.
2. St. Nicholas Day, December 6. Did you and your family observe it? Saint Nicholas actually was a real person who lived in Myra in what is now Turkey. He loved giving secret gifts. December 6 is the day of his death. There are many different traditions for celebrating St. Nicholas, but I’m most familiar with filling children’s stockings with candy and small gifts.
3. Eid’ul Adha, December 8. Also called “The Festival of Sacrifice,” it commemorates Abraham’s attempt to sacrifice his son, Isaac. (Remember the Biblical story?)
4. Poinsettia Day, December 12. This is the date of Joel Roberts Poinsett’s death. He’s the person credited with introducing the poinsettia to the United States, from Mexico.
5. Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, also December 12.
It’s one of the most important holidays in Mexico and it celebrates Mother Mary’s (the Virgin of Guadalupe) visitation to a man named Juan Diego in 1531. The Virgin asked to have a church built on the nearby hill so she could be closer to her people.
6. St. Lucia’s Day, December 13. St. Lucia’s Day is celebrated in many parts of Scandinavia to remember an Italian woman who became the patron saint of light. Usually a daughter in the celebrating household dresses in white robes and wears a crown of candles on her head. She serves her family either breakfast or sweets. Bet you didn’t know about this holiday.
7. Beethoven’s Birthday, December 16. This great German composer was born in Bonn in 1770.
8. Hanukkah, December 21st to December 29th.
Also known as the “Festival of Lights,” Hanukkah recalls the miracle God granted in keeping the temple candles burning after the Maccabees freed and re-dedicated the temple in Jerusalem. (The Maccabees had only enough oil to keep the candles lit for a day, yet the candles burned for eight long days.)
9. Winter Solstice, Dec. 21. Well, it isn’t exactly a holiday, but it gets plenty of attention. The solstice takes place on the shortest day of the year, when there’s more night than day in the Northern Hemisphere. There are many different ways of observing the solstice, but most involve a bit of time spent in reflection.
10. Christmas, December 25. As we all know, this is the world’s celebration of the birth of Jesus -- by non-orthodox Christians. (Orthodox Christians believe Jesus’ birthday falls on a different date.) Christmas, of course, also is the long-awaited day that children await a visit from Santa Claus.
11. Boxing Day, December 16. This is a holiday where people visit friends and give gifts to those who work with and or for them.
12. Kwanzaa, December 26 to Jan. 1.This holiday honors African heritage and is marked by participants lighting a Kinara (candle holder) every day. Ron Karenga started Kwanzaa in 1966.
13. New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31. Are you ready to celebrate? With the economy is such tough shape, maybe we ought to resist kicking up our heels! As you’re well aware, New Year’s Eve celebrates both the ending of the old year and the start of the new one. Who knows what’s ahead in 2009. …
I’m just learning about many of these December events. Have I missed any key holidays or special occasions? And have I overlooked an important element of any of these celebrations? Feel free to enlighten me. I’m eager to learn.
Thanks – and Merry Christmas.
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