Happy Holidays to you all from Madison Schools! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and we are happy to be able to celebrate with our families. We know this year has looked extremely different than any other year, but we encourage you to find some positivity this holiday season and spread the love -- to your families, your friends, and to others in your circles!
We wanted to take this time to recognize all of the major holidays, and explain a little more about each, in date order. Grab a mug, sit back, and learn something new about this festive season.
St. Nicholas Day: December 6
The first holiday we observe is St. Nicholas Day on December 6. This day recognizes the third-century saint who later became the inspiration for Santa Claus himself! Saint Nicholas was known for being incredibly generous; he sold all of his possessions and gave the money to the less fortunate, and he dedicated his life to helping those who were sick or suffering. Back then, families would leave their shoes by the fireplace to dry, and it was rumored St. Nicholas would leave presents or treats in the shoes as a gift. Today, we celebrate St. Nicholas Day by putting our shoes out by the fireplace and getting a surprise in the morning!
Hanukkah: November 28-December 6 this year
Next is Hanukkah, or Chanukah, a Jewish celebration that lasted from December 10-18 this calendar year. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew, as the observance commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. This is where, according to legend, Jews had revolted against their Greek-Syrian oppressors. The 8-day holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games, and exchanging of gifts.
Winter Solstice: December 21
On December 21, we celebrate the Winter Solstice, which marks the first day of the winter season. This is the shortest day and longest night of the year, and it is believed to be the Sun’s birthday, as the days begin to once again grow longer. People celebrate the Winter Solstice in a variety of ways, anywhere from staying up all night to see the sunrise or writing down what they want to leave behind in the last year.
Christmas: December 25
In the U.S., Christmas is one of the most popular sacred holidays of December, known as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Since the early 20th century, Christmas has also been recognized as a secular holiday, celebrated by Christians and non-Christians alike. In this tradition, religious observers attend church (often Midnight Mass), and of course, we see Santa Claus, his reindeer and elves, and the exchanging of gifts.
Kwanzaa: December 26-January 1
Kwanzaa is an African-American celebration of life from December 26 through January 1. It was first introduced in 1966 in response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965. This was seen as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community. There are seven principles of Kwanzaa, including unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. There are seven candles to represent these principles, and are also the colors of the flags of the African liberation movement: red, green, and black. Each day one of the principles is discussed and a candle is lit. On the final day of Kwanzaa, the family celebrates with a feast, called karamu.
New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day: December 31-January 1
As the year ends, we celebrate New Year’s Eve and Day. Many civilizations across the world have been observing the start of each new year on January 1 for hundreds of years. People celebrate by throwing parties, watching a giant disco ball descend or “drop,” eating special foods, and making New Year's declarations.
Happy Holidays to all -- no matter what you’re celebrating!