Christmas has always made December a festive month and is it even more so now that we observe Hanukkah and Kwanzaa then too. This year, the celebrations will extend through most of the month. Hanukkah begins at sundown on December 7 and lasts until sundown on the 15th. Kwanzaa begins, as always, on the day after Christmas and continues through January 1.
At a moment in history when there are so many conflicts among peoples here and abroad, let us put our differences aside and celebrate this wonderful season in a spirit of togetherness. Let us be thankful for the many blessings we have. And when we can, let us share with others the good fortune we enjoy.
There are many special things about these holidays. Here are some facts that may interest you:
Hanukkah commemorates the recovery of Jerusalem and rededication of the Second Temple by the Maccabees in the 2nd century BC.
The name derives from the ancient Hebrew word for “dedication.”
It is celebrated for eight days because the Maccabees feared they lacked enough oil to keep the temple light burning during a siege, yet miraculously, the supply lasted for eight nights. Hence the eight candles on Menorahs that are lit one day at a time by a ninth helper candle placed in the center.
Kwanzaa, which was introduced in 1966, is an American-created, African-inspired holiday designed to strengthen Black unity and honor traditional African values.
The name is derived from the Swahili word for “first.”
It is a cultural, not a religious celebration. As with Christmas and Hanukkah, gifts are given, part of the fun of all three holidays.
The tradition of giving presents on Christmas was inspired at least in part by the gifts brought to the infant Jesus by the Wise Men.
The idea of Santa Claus comes from Saint Nicholas, the fourth century saint who gave his large inheritance to the poor. His example of giving was celebrated during the Middle Ages, especially by the Dutch, whose name for the saint, Sinterklaas, evolved in English into Santa Claus.
When the Dutch established New Amsterdam — now New York of course — they brought Sinterklaas with them, and he became a part of the culture. No surprise, then, that it was a New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, who gave us our image of jolly St. Nick with his bagful of gifts in Twas the Night before Christmas.
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, an international communications firm that provides strategic advice and counsel to Fortune 500 companies and leading families and individuals in fields ranging from mergers and acquisitions, to crisis communications, to marketing, government affairs and foreign media.