Day 8. Celebrations in December
Take the time to consider what else might be going on in your community this month.
The UK seems to stop in December, with the world revolving around Christmas. And while for many of us this may be the case, this couldn’t be further from the truth for many families in the UK, meaning Christmas time can be extremely isolating for individuals and communities who do not celebrate it.
Particularly for children of other or no faith, Christmas can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion. Having to leave school assembly during Christmas songs, not being able to get involved in the Nativity with the rest of class, and not being understood by other Children in their school. This Christmas, educate yourself and your children about what their peers may be celebrating other than Christmas, and that some may not be celebrating anything at all. No one should be excluded because they do not celebrate Christmas. Embrace all communities and make sure everyone you encounter this Christmas feels included and understood. To help, below is a list of just eight celebrations that are also happening this month:
From the 7th to 15th of December 2023, Hanukkah is celebrated by the Jewish community, and is often referred to as ‘The Festival of Lights’. Some of the most important Hanukkah Traditions include lighting the menorah, eating fried foods, playing dreidel, and sometimes giving gifts, but this is not an extensive list. Because Hanukkah coincides with the Lunisolar calendar, the date changes each year, but it is usually in November or December.
Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated by millions throughout the world African community. From the 26th of December 2023 to the 1st of January 2024, many will be coming together in the UK to mark the occasion dedicated to celebrating family, community and culture. Traditions are based on Nguzo Saba (the seven principles of Kwanzaa), and include karamu, music and dance, and narratives. The celebration is ended with a final day dedicated to reflection and re-commitment to Nguzo Saba.
Las Posadas is traditionally celebrated in Mexico between the 16th and 24th of December, and is a 9 day festival celebrating the Christmas story. Posadas in Mexico began as a way for the Spaniards to teach native people about Christmas. Traditions for the celebration in Mexico include piñatas, aguinaldo (or bolo), ponche navideño, tamales and singing. Find out more about what the festival entails here.
Bodhi Day is a day to commemorate the Buddha’s Enlightenment, one of the most significant events in Buddhist history. It is generally celebrated on the 8th of December, although this varies worldwide. Bodhi Day is celebrated in different ways by Buddhists, but some traditions include decorating a ficus religiosa tree, meditation, displaying ornaments that represent the Three Jewels, and visiting stupas.
Saint Lucia’s Day
Saint Lucia’s Day is a Scandinavian festival of lights, usually celebrated by a girl portraying Saint Lucia leading a procession. It is celebrated mainly in Sweden, Norway, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland on December 13. The celebration marks the start of Christmas for those that celebrate it – find out more about the traditions here.
Saturnalia is an ancient Roman pagan festival honouring the agricultural god Saturn, the Roman god of farming and the harvest. For those who still celebrate the festival today, it is typically celebrated from the 17th to 23rd of December. Saturnalia was the most popular of Roman festivals, although is not as popular today. The traditional celebrations include suspending all work/business, reversing roles and giving slaves temporary freedom, and easing some moral restrictions.
Yule (Winter Solstice) is celebrated from the 21st of December to the 1st of January, and originated in Scandinavia. Many modern day celebrations of Yule recreate the traditional ones, including themes of light, fire and feasting. Some historians think that sacrifices were an important part of the observance. Yule is celebrated by many today to release the past and banish negative energy that people do not want to take into the New Year.
Christmas is the annual religious celebration to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated customarily on the 25th December. While Christmas originated as (and remains) a Christian holiday, it has been increasingly celebrated within the secular sphere. The notion of Sana Claus has roots in Christianity with the links to St. Nicholas, ‘Father Christmas’ is now seen widely as a secular figure. While most of the UK will celebrate Christmas this December, it is important to remember its importance to those for who Christmas is still very much a religious celebration.
So, while you get ready for celebrations this December, remember that not everyone will be experiencing the festivities in the same way as you, or even be taking part at all. Be considerate to different cultures, beliefs, religions and lived experiences. Whatever you do/do not celebrate, make this December about coming together and being kind to those around you.