For many Canadians and for millions of people around the world, Christmas is a secular holiday. It is not a religious holy day, rather it is a cultural event based on things such as family, gift giving and charity. For many Christmas is focused on children and the central figure is Santa.
Yet for many millions of of other people in Canada and around the world, Christmas Eve is a deeply significant night of the year in spiritual terms. Christmas emerged as the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus. Whether in churches or other places of worship, or at home, or in other locations, Christians gather together celebrate the Nativity, the birth of Jesus.
Check out some of these books from our display, “Holidays and Holy Days.”
This 9 day festival is central to Navidad (Christmas) celebrations in Mexico. This is a neighbourhood festival that commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph, who could not find posadas, (Spanish for “lodging”) before the birth of Jesus. A procession, including people dressed as Angels, Saints and the Holy Family, marches through the neighbourhood, knocking on doors looking for a place to stay. Like Mary and Joseph, they are refused, until finally the parade ends at one home where they are welcomed in. Feasting ensues, including a pinata for the children.
Simbang Gabi is a Filipino Christmas celebration. Similar to the Mexican Las Posadas and other Navidad celebrations in the Spanish speaking world, Simbang Gabi is a Novena, or a nine-day festival. Dating back hundreds of years to the beginning of Spanish rule over the Philippines, Simbang Gabi emerged as a distinctly Filipino celebration of Christmas. One of the features that developed in response to the agricultural practices of Filipino farmers is that the services are carried out in the very early morning, sometimes as early as 3:00 AM.
Simbang Gabi begins on December 16 and concludes with the Misa de Gallo on December 24.
Many Canadians trace their roots to the Philippines, including many students here at Lord Tweedsmuir. Ask some of your fellow students about Simbang Gabi! You can also find out more here:
“Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits” in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.”
Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): a milestone document proclaiming the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
The theme for Human Rights Day 2020 is “Recover Better: Stand Up for Human Rights.” From the UN:
This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts. We will reach our common global goals only if we are able to create equal opportunities for all, address the failures exposed and exploited by COVID-19, and apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.
Jews in Canada and around the world celebrate Hanukkah starting at sundown on December 10.
The Festival of Lights is a celebration of God’s deliverance and provision. The event began in remembrance of Maccabean revolt in the 2nd Century BCE, when the Hebrews recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem, the spiritual centre of Judaism. Each candle of the Menorah is lit, one per day for the 8 day Festival.
Like all Jewish Holy Days, which follow the lunar Hebrew Calendar and therefore vary against the Gregorian calendar, Hanukkah can occur anytime from late November to late December. This year Hanukkah will conclude on the evening of December 18.
For more information on Hanukkah, check out some of the following:
On December 25, Christians in Canada and around the world celebrate the Nativity, the birth of the Christ. Christians believe that a Jewish Rabbi named Yeshua, who was born in Bethlehem, in Roman occupied Israel roughly 2000 years ago, was the Messiah, the long awaited saviour promised by God. The Hebrew word Messiah translates to Greek as χριστός, romanized as Khristos, from which we get the anglicized form, Christ. Christians believe that God became one of us in the person of Jesus, or Emanuel, literally “God With Us.”
As Christianity spread from the Holy Land into the Roman Empire and to the Celtic peoples of the north, traditional pagan winter festivals such as Yule were taken over as Christian festivals and Christmas became a winter celebration.
Over the course of the last century, Christmas has grown from a strictly Christian religious festival to become a secular holiday celebrated by people of many different religions, cultures and worldviews from all over the planet. For some, Santa Claus, stockings and gift-giving are central to Christmas. To others, it is a much needed time of rest and merry-making at the coldest and darkest time of year. Some may agree with the Grinch, who simply hated Christmas, or with Ebenezer Scrooge when he said it was a “Humbug” — although both of them changed their positions in the end!
Whether you are celebrating the birth of the Christ with your family and friends, or observe Christmas as a strictly secular event, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!
The religion known as Buddhism dates back to the 6th or 5th Century BCE, when the Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama became the “Buddha,” literally, “the Enlightened One.” The followers of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism observe Rohatsu, or Bodhi Day, in celebration of the day that the Buddha sat below the Bodhi Tree and meditated on the meaning of life. This day is celebrated mainly by the Buddhists of northern and eastern Asia, and in countries to which those people have immigrated (such as Canada). To many this holiday is known as Bodhi Day and it occurs on the 8th day of the 12th month of the lunar year
In Japan the day is known as Rohatsu. With the Japanese adoption of the western calendar (Gregorian) Rohatsu is fixed on December 8th.
If people tell you that Santa Claus isn’t real, tell them to think again! Saint Nicholas lived in the 3rd and 4th Centuries AD(CE). He lived in what is now known as Turkey, but what was then a Greek area of the Roman Empire. The legends surrounding his life grew and evolved over the years, eventually leading to our modern picture of Santa.
In much of Europe and in many parts of the world, St. Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6, or on another date other than Christmas.
The days of Fall grow shorter and shorter, and in the Northern Hemisphere the month of December is dark and cold. The low point is the Winter Solstice, December 21st, the shortest day of the year.
In traditional pagan cultures, this time of the year represented the battle between darkness and light, between life and death. Death and darkness seem to be winning through this season. On the Solstice, the dark and cold had reached its nadir. Henceforth the days would grow longer and warmer. The darkness gives way to light, and death gives way to life. Hope is restored.
Many of the festivals and celebrations that take place at this time of year, from many different cultures, follow this theme. Yule was celebrated by many peoples of northern pre-Christian Europe, including the Celts, and such Germanic groups as the Angles, Saxons, Danes and Norse. Like many of the pagan holidays, Yule was adapted by Christian Europe and incorporated into Christmas traditions. However, followers of neopagan religions, such as Wicca, have re-established Yule as a distinct celebration.