This holiday season is especially festive, since the three major observances — Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa — come so close together that there is even some overlap. This is not always so. Last year, for example, Hanukkah was over by December 6.
Christmas is, of course, on the 25th, a Sunday, with the national holiday observed on Monday the 26th. Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 18 and ends at sundown on the 26th. And the seven days of Kwanzaa will start on the 26th and continue through January 1. A lot of joy contained in a relatively short time span.
Despite our many differences, there is so much that unites us as a people and gives us good reasons to celebrate during this special season. We remain the most inventive, innovative and industrious nation on Earth, and the blessings of our free enterprise system are widely distributed. So let us be thankful for what we have — and when we can, share our good fortune with others.
There are many special things about these holidays. Here are some facts that may interest you:
The tradition of putting up Christmas trees traces back to the ancient Romans, who displayed evergreens during the days after the winter solstice to reassure everyone that spring would eventually return.
The English-speaking world adopted indoor Christmas trees after Prince Albert of Germany, in keeping with German tradition, set up a tree in 1840 in Windsor Castle for his new wife, England’s Queen Victoria. An 1848 engraving of the Royal Family’s elaborately decorated tree helped popularize the idea throughout Great Britain, and the practice was embraced by Americans in the years following.
Hanukkah — which derives from the ancient Hebrew word for “dedication” — commemorates the triumph of a band of rebel Jews known as the Maccabees in reclaiming the temple in Jerusalem from the Greek-Syrians in 164 B.C.
The temple required a light to burn at all times, but the Maccabees seemed not to have enough oil for that. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight nights, leading to the eight-day celebration of Hanukkah during which the eight candles on Menorahs are lit one day at a time by a ninth candle placed in the center.
Kwanzaa was introduced in 1966 to honor black unity and traditional African values. It is an African-inspired, but American-invented holiday, with the name derived from the Swahili word for “first.”
The seven days of Kwanzaa are always celebrated beginning the day after Christmas and ending on New Year’s Day, but it is a cultural, not a religious celebration. As with Christmas and Hanukkah, gifts are given, part of the fun of all three great holidays.
Enjoy the season and let us keep Peace on Earth and Good Will to All.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is the Founder and CEO of The Dilenschneider Group.