The eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev -- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness.
More than twenty-one centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies and reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When they sought to light the Temple's menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled. Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts) and the giving of Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children.
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, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large 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 is discussed. The principles, called the Nguzo Saba (seven principles in Swahili) are values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa also has seven basic symbols which represent values and concepts reflective of African culture.
The candle-lighting ceremony each evening provides the opportunity to gather and discuss the meaning of Kwanzaa. The first night, the black candle in the center is lit (and the principle of umoja/unity is discussed). One candle is lit each evening and the appropriate principle is discussed.
Las Posadas, (“The Inns”) is a religious festival celebrated in Mexico between December 16 and 24. Las Posadas commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to the baby Jesus. When they were unable to find lodging in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary were forced to seek shelter in a stable, where the Christ child was born.
Las Posadas is celebrated in cities and towns across Mexico. Each evening during the festival, a small child dressed as an angel leads a procession through the streets of the town. The procession is primarily made up of children dressed in silver and gold robes carrying lit candles and images of Mary and Joseph riding a donkey. Adults, including musicians, follow the procession, which visits selected homes and asks for lodging for Joseph and Mary. Traditionally, the procession is always refused lodging, though the hosts often provide refreshments. At each stop, passages of scripture are read and Christmas carols are sung.
Mass is held each day after the procession, and, at the conclusion of the service, children break open piñatas filled with candy, toys, and, occasionally, money. The piñatas are usually crafted in the form of a star, which was said to have guided the three wise men of biblical tradition to the newborn Jesus.
Saint Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas of Myra is a popular Christian Saint among children across Europe because of his reputation as a bringer of gifts. Both the North American Santa Claus and the British Father Christmas are legendary figures whose attributes derive from the myths surrounding St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas Day is a religious observance but not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
In the days leading up to December 6, children throughout Europe put their shoes or a special St. Nicholas boot in front of the fireplace or the front door at night to find them filled with small presents the next morning. Having inspired both the figure of the North American Santa Claus and the British Father Christmas, St. Nicholas has in some countries been more recently joined on his visits to children's homes by an evil companion who punishes the naughty ones: in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and northern Italy, this personification of evil is called Krampus, in Germany Knecht Ruprecht, and in the Netherlands Zwarte Piet. Also, in Easter Europe it is believed that St. Nicholas brings twigs to the naughty children.
All over the world, Christmas celebrations reflect local culture and traditions. The festivities can be startlingly different from country to country, focusing on different aspects of the nativity story.
Christmas Traditions in Sweden : In Sweden, the Christmas festivities begin on December 13 with St. Lucia's Day, which celebrates the patron saint of light. The eldest daughter gets up before dawn and dresses as the "Queen of Light" in a long white dress. She wears a crown of leaves. Singing "Santa Lucia," the Lucia Queen goes to every bedroom to serve coffee and treats to each member of the family. The younger children in the family help, too. The whole family helps to select the Christmas tree just a day or two before Christmas.
min. 4:45 to 5:30 & min. 6:30 to 7:30 & min. 13:00 to 14:00