Holiday Traditions

by OLIVIA DEGAN

Here in Oceanside, many people have celebrated or are preparing to celebrate December holidays.. Across the globe, many religious and national celebrations have evolved in line with cultural values to create distinct traditions. In Japan, for example, Ōmisoka (also known as ōtsugomori) is a traditional New Year’s Eve celebration.  The United States and other nations in the West African diaspora take part in Kwanzaa to commemorate African heritage and culture. Depending on the significance of a holiday and the location in which it is observed, winter holidays appear in many different forms.

Kwanzaa is celebrated between December 26 and January 1. Kwanzaa was first created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University,  in an attempt to unite the black community following the Watts riots in Los Angeles. As a result, Kwanzaa is mainly observed in the U.S. Kwanzaa incorporated traditional aspects of fruit harvest celebrations of the Zulu and Ashanti tribes promoting cultural values. Like some other December holidays, Kwanzaa celebrations often involve gift-giving. The seven core principles emphasized throughout this week-long cultural commemoration are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Each of these principles are represented through the lighting of red, green, and black candles in a kinara, the Swahili word for candle holder.

In Japan, Ōmisoka takes place on December 31, the last day of the year. Shogatsu, the Japanese New Year’s observance, occurs directly afterwards. Ōmisoka involves both traditional and modern elements, with many families still taking part in osoji (grand cleaning), decorating, eating Toshikoshi Soba noodles, and listening to the ringing of Buddhist temple bells. Children also receive money from their relatives. A more modern practice involves the giving of Fukubukuro “lucky bags.” Stores conceal products in mystery bags, which often include items more valuable than the bag price. Because of these sales, this modern twist on a traditional December holiday has become extremely popularized.

Hanukkah, the “festival of lights,” is a Jewish celebration symbolized with the nightly lighting of a candle in a menorah. The eight days of Hanukkah tie to religious history from the second century B.C., when an oil lamp burned for eight days rather than one, according to Jewish tradition. The lighting of the candles is paired with gift-giving and game-playing to commemorate this miracle. One popular game is spinning a dreidel, with the prize being chocolate gelt. This promotion of Jewish culture keeps traditions alive with this joyous celebration.

Christmas, which takes place on December 25, is a Christian celebration to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas traditions involve carolling, gift-giving, spending time with family, and decorating one’s house with lights and a tree. According to children’s Christmas stories, Santa Claus comes from the North Pole and delivers presents to good children. Christians also go to special masses in church and feast with their family. Although Easter is regarded as the most religious Christian holiday, Christmas tends to be regarded as the most jubilant.

Because each of these holidays are associated with tradition and joy, many tend to look favorably towards the winter months. Winter break is a time for students to spend with family and friends, regardless of religious association.

Happy Holidays to all!!