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Grand Canyon School provides insight on December traditions

Many religions have celebrations in December, including the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. (stock photo)

Many religions have celebrations in December, including the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. (stock photo)

Many religions have December traditions, but there’s one that many people consider their top priority: Christmas. Christmas is a time of joy that you can spread to loved ones by giving gifts to friends and family, spending time with everyone and eating your heart out.

One Christmas tradition celebrated by many Mexicans is Las Posadas, Dec. 16-24, which commemorates the search of Joseph and Mary to find a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to baby Jesus. In this celebration, people dress as Joseph, Mary and the Three Kings (los Reyes Magos) and walk around town, knocking on each door to sing and be sung to. On the final day, they do a prayer and have a dinner. Here in America, however, we only meet on the 16th and 24th to eat tamales and drink a warm cider called ponche. We cut the pan de dulche (sweet bread) that contains a plastic baby inside; whoever gets the baby then has to bring something or have the next posada at their house.

Just as we value Christmas, there are other traditions that are just as important for other religions. For example, Kwanzaa is a holiday to honor African heritages celebrated in America and in other nations of the African diaspora. Kwanzaa comes from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits” in the Swahili language.

This holiday is celebrated for a week, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1 and includes a big traditional feast, songs, dancing, stories, poetry and gifts. They have a candle ceremony, lighting one candle every night, with seven candles to represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa — unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday celebrated in November or December to commemorate the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This year, it’s Dec. 2-10. This celebration is also called the Festival of Lights or Feast of Dedication.

Hanukkah is celebrated with the Hanukkah Menorah, which is lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches. The middle candle is called Shamash, which means attendant in Hebrew, and is used to light the other eight candles, one each night. Each night of Hanukkah, children receive gifts and money, often distributed as chocolate coins in gold foil.

These are just some of the ways to celebrate the holidays.

How do you celebrate?

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