“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”
– Andrew Wyeth
In addition to its yearly duty of being cold (thumbs down) … December is also a busy, busy month for all nations, races, and faiths across the world. During this time, Christians begin lighting Advent candles, trees are chopped down and decorated for Christmas, Hanukkah menorah’s are lit, and it’s candle lighting time for the Kwanzaa kinara.
So why does it all happen now? Some people point to the prevalence of the December holiday to the pagan tradition of celebrating the Winter Solstice (December 21st). Which makes sense, as it marks the day when the amount of hours of sunlight starts to become longer and the clearing toward Spring can seem a bit closer. Another argument can be made, however, that the popularization of Christmas during the late-19th to the 20th century in the United States (Restad, 1995), has lead to the prevalence of competing holidays. Christmas, the one-time second fiddle to Easter and Good Friday, picked up steam (mainly through commercialization and secularization) to become the most popular of all the Holidays in the United States. The effect of that was an alienation of Americans who did not celebrate or agree with the holiday. To compensate, the Hebrew tradition of Hanukkah (a long-standing holy week, sure, but never anywhere close to the importance of the High Holy Days) gained more traction in the United States. Likewise, African-American communities, who felt that both Christianity and Christmas, where thrust upon, developed their own holiday, Kwanzaa, based on a Swahili harvest festival.
Regardless of how or why you celebrate any of the Winter Festivals, the important thing to remember is to have fun during them and to enjoy your break from school. In the meantime, you can stop by the Library and check out some of these great books we have on display celebrating the various reasons for a Winter Break.