December 4, 2013

December – A Month Filled with Festivals

By Eloise Graham

Many religious groups and secular groups have significant celebrations this month, so I thought I would explore some of them.

The Jewish festival of Hanukkah has already begun. It started at sundown November 27 and lasts through December 5. Hanukkah is also known as The Festival of Lights. A Greek-Syrian army had invaded Israel. Antiochus Epiphanes set up a pagan altar inside the Temple of Jerusalem and offered sacrifices to Zeus. A small group of Jews called the Macabees defeated the invading army. The Jewish people set about to purify the Holy Temple. This would require the eternal lamp to be burning. There was only one small flask of oil, about a day’s worth, for the lamp. But a miracle occurred, the oil lasted for eight days and nights, until more oil could be brought from afar. Therefore, the festival lasts for eight days and is often called the festival of lights.

Advent Sunday is December 1 this year. Advent is a time for Christians to prepare themselves for the advent, or coming birth, of the Christ-child. The Advent period goes from December 1 to December 24. Each Sunday a new candle is lit, with the final candle being lit Christmas Eve.

Bodhi Day is a Buddhist holiday held December 8. This holiday commemorates the day that the historical Buddha experienced enlightenment. He had resolved to meditate until he found the root of suffering and how to be free of it. Before his enlightenment, “the Destroyer” and the “Demon of Illusion” tempted him.

The Festival of the Winter Solstice December 17 through December 25 is a pagan Roman celebration to the god Saturn, their god of agriculture. It was a time of festivities, gift giving and merrymaking with friends and family in honor of the new solar cycle, wishing for a good spring.

The pagan Anglo-Saxon had a twelve-day festival, the Wild Hunt to worship the god Odin, also called the Yule. The dates were probably December 17 through December 29, if converted to our modern calendar. Through the ages, probably sometime in the 15th century, the Yule log became incorporated into German Christmas customs.

Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25, the day set aside to honor the birth of Jesus. However, the Bible does not give an exact date, but it does give accounts as to His humble arrival. Probably only a very few knew the exact day and date of his birth. In 312, Roman Emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity. Not knowing how to cope with the festivities of the pagan Romans, he decided to declare December 25 as the day in which to honor the birth of Christ. He did this in hoping to convert the pagans to Christianity. So the festivities continued, but instead of seeking out Saturn, they were to honor Christ.

Kwanzaa is a weeklong secular celebration going from December 26 to January 1, 2014. Black Studies professor Dr. Maulana Karenga created it in 1966 to reaffirm African values and serve as a communal celebration. It reflects seven principles; unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

There is plenty to celebrate this month; love, peace, sharing, joy, warmth, lights, family, unity, caring and hope!

My wish for you… may you have a blessed December! See you next year!

Filed Under: History