The evolution of St. Nick: Holiday Histories

Jill Schleiden

This time of year, there are many holidays people celebrate with family and friends. Three of them are Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

Christmas, or Christ’s Mass, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ for those of Christian faith.

However, when it was merged with certain pagan celebrations several centuries ago, it became widely popular even with non-Christians, according to “American Book of Days” by Jane Hatch.

Christmas now encompasses pagan Christmastime rituals such as gift-giving, the visit of “Old Saint Nick,” and evergreen decorations.

These are tied in with Christ’s birth, as in the case of gift giving and the gifts of the Magi.

Gifts are given on Christmas day or Christmas Eve. For traditional Catholics, Christmas Day is a day of obligation. They must attend one of three masses that day.

Hanukkah runs this year from Dec. 1 through Dec. 9, and the first candle was lit at nightfall of the first day.

The holiday is also called the Festival of Lights. It celebrates the freedom of the Israelites from Syrian-Greek rule and the rededication of the Second Temple, says myjewishlearning.com.

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In recent decades, Christmas has influenced Hanukkah and led to the idea of eight days of gifts.

Traditionally, the holiday is celebrated simply by lighting the Menorah each night and spinning the Dreidel, as well as eating certain foods.

The foods of Hanukkah, according to the website, are usually fried foods because the holiday pays tribute to a miracle in the bible where one day’s oil lasted eight days.

The Israelis were under siege, and thought they would be without light after the first day. But according to belief, God made the oil last so the people could survive.

Kwanzaa runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. It celebrates family, community and world African culture. According to the officialkwanzaawebsite.org, the holiday is quickly growing in popularity.

It encourages the reaffirmation of familial bonds and gift giving. Items used in celebratin the holiday vary but should always be the most beautiful art, freshest foods or valuable objects available.

Each item used is symbolic of a different branch of the holiday’s meaning.

For more information, visit officialkwanzaawebsite.org.

Here are a few other observed days in December:

Dec. 1: Montgomery Bus Boycott – 1955

Dec. 6: Pearl Harbor – 1944

Dec. 10: Human Rights Day for all United Nations countries – 1948

Dec. 15: Bill of Rights Day – 1791

Dec. 16: Boston Tea Party – 1773

Dec. 17: Wright Brothers’ Day – 1903

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