Celebrating Diversity in December
Miah Davis, CCS Development Assistant – Institutional Advancement

It’s that time of year again! What time of year? Well, that depends on you. This month, the Office for Institutional Equity and Inclusion lifts up a few December holidays.

Hanukkah | December 10 – December 18 (2020)

Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is a religious holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, begins on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar and usually falls in November or December. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts. 

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days, which honor the miracle of the oil that lasted eight days in the Holy Temple. Each day, a candle is lit on a hanukkiah – a nine branched candelabra – starting with a single candle and adding one more everyday. Blessings are given over the candle and festive songs commence.

If you want to wish someone a Happy Hanukkah, you can say “Hanukkah Sameach!”  which means Happy Hanukkah or “Chag Sameach!” which means Happy Holidays.

Read more about Hanukkah: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/hanukkah 


Winter Solstice | December 21

Representing the longest, darkest day of the year and a return of the sun, the Winter Solstice has been celebrated around the world for centuries. Many people who observe the solstice believe it channels energy for renewal, regeneration, and self-reflection. The Pagan celebration, Yule, is one of the oldest in the world. Many of the customs, rituals, symbols, and lore associated with winter holidays like Christmas have roots in the winter solstice celebrations of ancient pagan cultures. Global celebrations of the Winter Solstice include:

Saturnalia – Rome

St. Lucia’s Day – Scandinavia 

Dong Zhi – China

Shab-e Yalda – Iran

Inti Raymi – Peru

Shalako – Zuni Tribe, New Mexico

Soyal – Hopi Tribe, Arizona

Toji – Japan

Read more about winter solstice celebrations: https://www.history.com/news/8-winter-solstice-celebrations-around-the-world


Christmas | December 25

Originating as a religious holiday, Christians observe Christmas as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God and a spiritual leader whose teachings are the basis of the religion. The holiday has transformed over time into a global celebration that is now both religious and secular in nature, with themes of joy, unity, and goodwill towards humankind. 

The most well-known figure of the secular half of Christmas is Santa Claus. Also known as Kris Kringle and Saint Nicholas, Santa is depicted as a jolly older man with a large white beard who wears red winter attire and large black boots. Santa takes this yearly journey to bring toys to good children around the world on Christmas Eve. In the United States, he is often shown flying from his home in the North Pole in a magic sleigh led by his reindeer: Dancer, Prancer, Dasher, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph. 

Read more about Christmas: https://www.history.com/topics/christmas


Kwanzaa | December 26 – January 1

Kwanzaa is a non-religious African American and pan-African holiday created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga during the Black Freedom Movement. The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, which translates to “first fruits of the harvest.” This seven day holiday is dedicated to the celebration of family and community and has roots in creating space for cultural grounding in both thought and practice. 

The holiday is defined by seven principals – Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self Determination), Ujima (Collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith) – and every day celebrates a different one. A candle is lit each day and added to the kinara – a seven-branched candelabra. During Kwanzaa, families gather for music, dance, and feasts to celebrate the seven principles, and the week concludes with a day dedicated to reflection and recommitment to the principles. 

Read more about Kwanzaa: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/kwanzaa-history


NEW YEAR’S EVE | December 31

While not technically a federally recognized holiday, New Year’s Eve is one of the most universally celebrated traditions in the world. It is informally observed as a day to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next. Many people chose to host parties with friends and family, while others might head out to their city center to watch a giant sparkling ball drop at midnight, signifying the new year.

Some of the most popular New Year’s customs are making resolutions for the upcoming year, setting off fireworks, and having a glass of champagne at the stroke of midnight. The custom of making a New Year’s resolution dates all the way back to Mesopotamia! 

Read more about New Year’s Eve: https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/new-years