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Holiday season: a time to be Joyful

by Sgt. Robert L. Young
6th Air Mobility Wing Military Equal Opportunity
photo by Nick Stubbs
Children scrambled for the candy canes Santa Claus tossed out around the base Holiday pole after the official lighting ceremony Wednesday night.

So much is happening during this time of year. The holiday season is here and most would agree; it is a season to be joyful. People everywhere are planning festivities for the fun times ahead. While organizing your events and spreading the word, keep in mind the diversity of the individuals within your organization. This is a great time of year for all of us to be joyful for many reasons. Often, we hear people say "Happy Holidays" in reference to "Christmas" and "New Year's Day." However, there are several other celebrations during this season. In addition to Christmas and New Years, many individuals celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Yule.

Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival (Festival of Lights), commencing on the 25th day of the month of Kislev (November/December), to commemorate the victory of the Jews over the Hellenist Syrians. Hanukkah is the Hebrew term for dedication. The most important observance associated with Hanukkah is the kindling of the Hanukkah lights on the Menorah, a seven or nine branch candelabrum.

Each night an additional candle is kindled until the eighth candle is lit on the final evening. The chanting of appropriate blessings and the singing of songs accompany the lighting. The ninth branch is reserved for the Shamash, the servant light, which is lit first and used to kindle the other lights of the Menorah. Additionally, Hanukkah is a joyful family festival. Gifts are exchanged, parties given, children play games, and Latkes (potato pancakes) and Sufganiyot (doughnuts) are served. These are delicacies made with oil, long associated with Hanukkah.

Kwanzaa, which begins Dec. 26, is an African American spiritual holiday based on the cultural principles of a theory called Kawaida. The Kawaida premise is that social revolutionary change for Black America can be achieved by the act of revealing and disclosing individuals to their cultural heritage.

Kwanzaa is a way of life, not just a celebration. As a living social practice, it is a week of remembering, reassessing, recommitting, rewarding and rejoicing.

It is a time for evaluation of our history and ourselves. Kwanzaa provides a way of relating to our past, reassessing our thoughts and practices, and recommitting ourselves to the achievement of Black liberation and the betterment of life for all Black Americans.

Kwanzaa is comprised of a week of fasting, from sunrise to sunset, to cleanse and discipline the mind and uplift the spirit. A schedule is used in preparing the family to participate in the Kwanzaa celebration. Family meetings are called to assign tasks for the celebration. Several tasks include gathering and arranging decorations, creatively placing candles, gifts, and basket of Mazao fruit in the home.

Also hanging up a Bendera Ya Taifa (Flag of the Black Nation), which symbolizes Pan-Africanism and/or Black Nationalism. Kwanzaa is the time when Black Americans get together to give thanks, and to enjoy the blessings of living and acting together as a family.

Yule is celebrated on December 21st and is considered a Wiccan and Pagan holiday. The symbolism of Yule is the rebirth of the sun, the longest night of the year, the Winter Solstice, Introspect, and Planning for the future. Symbols associated with Yule include: a Yule log, or small Yule log with three candles, evergreen boughs or wreaths, holly, and mistletoe.

Also, many foods are associated with Yule, such as cookies and caraway cakes soaked in Cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, spiced cider, and wassail, known as lamb's wool. The activities of Yule are comprised of caroling, wassailing the trees, burning the Yule log, decorating the Yule tree, exchanging presents, kissing under the mistletoe and honoring Kriss Kringle--the German Pagan God of Yule.

Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. People have celebrated a mid-winter festival since pre-historic times. They marked the beginning of longer hours of daylight with fires and ritual offerings. The Roman festival of Satunalia-a time for feasting and gambling-lasted for weeks in December. Germanic tribes of Northern Europe also celebrated Mid-winter with feasting, drinking and religious rituals.

It is thought that Jesus of Nazareth was born in the springtime. A Pope, Julius I, chose December 25th for the celebration of his birth in the 4th century-to include a Christian element in the long established Mid-winter festivals. Also in the 4th century, a bishop in Turkey who came to be called St. Nicholas was known for good deeds involving children. St. Nicholas is illustrated in Medieval and Renaissance paintings as a tall, dignified and severe man. His feast day on December 6 was celebrated throughout Europe until the 16th century. Afterwards, he continued to be known in Protestant Holland. Dutch children would put shoes by a fireplace for St. Nicholas or "Sinter Klaus" and leave food for his horse.

Sinter Klaus would gallop on his horse between rooftops and drop candy down the chimneys into the children's shoes. Meanwhile, his assistant, Black Peter, was the one who popped down the chimneys to leave gifts behind. Dutch settlers brought the legend of Sinter Klaus to North America-where we came to know him as Santa Claus. The 12 days of Christmas, the bright fires, the Yule log, giving gifts, parades with floats, carolers who sing while going from house to house, holiday feasts, and the church processions can all be traced back to the early Mesopotamians. Those traditions are practiced to this day.

There are many festive celebrations observed during the month of December. In spite of the different celebrations they all have common ties such as fellowship amongst family and friends, the sharing of gifts, food, fun, and a sense of belonging. This article by no means includes all of the observances and festivities celebrated during this time of year. However, these can serve as a building block and help us build a better awareness of the holiday season that can help us to a better understanding of others.

For further information please visit the base library, or contact the Military Equal Opportunity office at 828-3333.

 

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