The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Wishing you happiness.
I have a friend who owns and runs a catering company that she named “Happy Everything.” As I think about the current season I realize how appropriate Happy Everything is, we celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza and the New Year over just a couple of weeks. Rather than look at our differences the period provides us all the opportunity celebrate our own traditions while honoring those of others. In that spirit I wish each and every one of you “Happy Everything.” Let us all pray that we can use the season as a springboard into a new year with more peace in our world, less pain and suffering and food and shelter for those who have spent most of their lives much less fortunate than we have been. For each of you personally I hope that you find that next year will be the best year you have ever had.
I thought this would be a nice time to know a little bit more about what we celebrate so here is a gift we can give to ourselves, better understanding.
The origins of Hanukah or the Festival of Lights are an event that happened 200 years before the birth of Christ. A king named Antiochus attempted to have all Jewish persons under his reign to follow the Greek religion. Under the leadership of Judah Maccabee, there was a rebellion.
After three years of fighting, the Maccabees drove the Greek soldiers away. The Maccabees wanted to rededicate the temple, but were only able to find enough oil for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted eight days; long enough to make new oil.
An important part of the Hanukah celebration is the menorah. This is a candleholder with eight candles and a shammash or servant candle. One candle is lit by the shammash for each of the night of Hanukah.
After the lighting of the candles, people give gifts to one another. People sing and make merry. A popular food for Hanukah is potato pancakes, or latkes, cooked in oil in honor of the miracle.
Children enjoy playing the dreidel game. This is a top game played with nuts or gold-covered chocolate coins. There are four letters of the top which stand for nun, gimmel, hay, and shin and give the directions for what to give or take during the game. The letters also stand for “nes gadol hayah sham” or “a great miracle happened there.”
In the Seventeenth century the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas. December 25 was a workday. In the late 1700’s, Christmas was once again a happy holiday. The Colonists decorated their fireplaces with greenery, sung carols, and feasted. No one, however, had a Christmas tree.
In 1823 Clement Moore wrote the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus began to play a big part in the celebration of Christmas.
In the 1840’s. German immigrants introduced the Christmas tree. This decoration became a major part of the Christmas tradition.
In the 1890’s, Victorians decorated their trees and homes with lots of lace, flowers, and glass ornaments. Sending Christmas cards became popular during this time.
Today, we combine old and new traditions to celebrate Christmas in a way that is meaningful to our family and friends.
Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday created in 1966. It begins on December 26 and lasts through January 1. The name Kwanzaa come from the language of Swahili and means first fruits of the harvest.
To prepare for the holiday, families decorate their homes with Kwanzaa symbols. They place a mkeka, a straw mat, on the table. Corn (one ear for each child in the family) and other foods are placed on the mkeka to remember the earth’s abundance.
Candles are placed in a kinara, a wooden candle holder. A black candle is placed in the center as a reminder of the richness of African-Amercan skin. Three red candles represent struggles and three green candles represent a prosperous future. A candle is lit for each day of Kwanzaa. The black candle is lit first, then red and green candles are lit alternately.
There are seven priciples of Kwanzaa, one for each day. They are Umoja or Unity, Kujichagulia or Self-Determination, Ujima or Collective Work and Responsibility, Ujamma or Cooperative Economics, Nia or Purpose, Kuumba or Creativity, and Imani or Faith.
“This is my wish for you: peace of mind, prosperity through the year, happiness that multiplies, health for you and yours, fun around every corner, energy to chase your dreams, joy to fill your holidays!”
Stay well, do good work, and have fun.
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