December Holidays: A Family Guide

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December is a time for many that is synonymous with festivities and the holiday season. While many families celebrate the holidays which are aligned with their family culture, it is always a wonderful idea to learn more about other celebrations from cultures around the world. We have put together a list of 8 December holidays with resources for your family to learn more about these special celebrations. 

1. Rohatsu (Bodhi Day): December 8

According to BodhiDay.org, Bodhi Day celebrates the day the “Historic Buddha”, aka Siddhartha Gautama, Sakyamuni Buddha, achieved enlightenment. There are actually 2 Bodhi days each year. The secular day, which is celebrated in the Western world and Japan, is celebrated every year on December 8th. The other is based on the lunar calendar and therefore changes each year. This year the lunar date is December 30th.

According to the National Day Calendar, Bodhi Day is a quiet and reflective holiday. Most celebrate the holiday with a day of meditation, tea and cookies, or decorating a Bodhi tree.

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2. Posadas Navidenas: December 16-December 24

Posadas Navidenas is primarily celebrated in Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Spain, and by Hispanics in the U.S.

Posadas began as a way for the Spaniards to teach native people about Christmas. For the nine days before Christmas, masses would include representations of Mary and Joseph. Now, families and neighborhoods hold pasadas in homes, with smaller groups of friends and family. 

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3.Hanukkah: December 18-December 26

Also known as Chanukah or the "Festival of Lights", Hanukkah is an 8-day Jewish festival that traditionally begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar. According to  chabad.org, at the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting. The menorah holds nine flames, one of which is the shamash (“attendant”), which is used to kindle the other eight lights.

Other traditions during Hanukkah include playing the dreidel game, eating gelt (chocolate coins), cooking and enjoying special holiday meals, and enjoying the gifts received over the 8 days.

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4. Winter Solstice (Yuletide)- December 21

The Winter Solstice, marking the day with the shortest daylight and longest night, takes place either on December 21 or 22, in the Northern Hemisphere. This day marks the rebirth of the sun since the daylight periods following the Solstice gradually get longer until the Summer Solstice in June.

Many ancient civilizations celebrated this day and today, these traditions continue to be celebrated through various activities which have an emphasis on light, nature, and holistic movement. 

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5. Soyal- December 22

One particular Winter Solstice holiday is Soyal. Soyal is the ceremony of the Zuni and Hopi peoples. These tribes in the southern U.S. honor the Winter Solstice on Tuesday, December 22 with a ceremony to lure back the sun god, who is believed to have traveled away from the tribes during the winter.

According to CulturalWorld.org, for the Hopi, the Soyal ceremony is one of the most important ceremonies of the year, and it is also an excellent excuse for a party, and a chance to socialize with friends and neighbors.

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6. Christmas- December 25th

Christmas, a world-wide Christian holiday, marks the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Christmas has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870 and has become one of the most famous December celebrations across the world, even for those who do not practice Christianity.

Many families have developed their own traditions during this time involving church services, special meals, gift giving, caroling, parties, and more. 

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7. Boxing Day- December 26th

Boxing Day, which is primarily celebrated in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, was originally set aside as the day when those such as servants, tradespeople, and other less wealthy individuals were given gifts. Historically, churches would leave out alms boxes to collect donations for the less fortunate. 

Now this celebrated holiday has become known for shopping and sporting events. Many will gather to watch horse racing, football (soccer), cricket and more. 

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8. Kwanzaa- December 26-January 1

According to Interexchange.org , Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration held in the United States that honors African heritage in African-American culture. Kwanzaa is observed from December 26th to January 1st, and culminates in gift giving and a big feast. This holiday is fairly new compared to some of the others. It was started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga in response to the LA Watts Riots. 

Kwanzaa is often celebrated through special traditions such as African song and dance, storytelling, poetry reading, and learning about the various African culture principle values. 

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