December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For more than two thousand years, people have been observing Christmas Day with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, sharing meals with family and friends and waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar. It is celebrated for eight days and nights. In Hebrew, the word "hanukkah" means “dedication.” The holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.
Come celebrate the spooky side of the holidays. Ghosts, Saint Nicholas, Der Belznickel and other characters haunt these stories that take place around the holidays. We've also included a couple of ghost stories from the African-American tradition for folks to read...
Kwanzaa is a seven day festival which celebrates the African American culture and history. It is a time of community gathering and reflection. Kwanzaa begins on December 26th, the day after Christmas, and continues until New Years Day, January 1st.
New Year's Day is observed on January 1, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar. Since most countries use the Gregorian calendar, New Year's Day is a truly global public holiday, often celebrated with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the New Year starts.
December 6 is the Feast of Saint Nicholas of Myra, a bishop from the fourth century. He is the model for our modern-day Santa Claus, because Saint Nicholas's generosity was legendary. The night before Saint Nicholas Day, children place their shoes in a prominent location-- by a fireplace, or outside their bedroom door. The next morning--usually very early--the children find their shoes filled with little presents from the great saint.
In the United States, the modern Thanksgiving holiday tradition traces its origins to a 1621 celebration at Plymouth in present-day Massachusetts. The thanksgiving observance at Plymouth was prompted by a good harvest. Initially, the Plymouth colony did not have enough food to feed the colonists, but the Wampanoag Native Americans helped the settlers by providing seeds and teaching them to fish.