The fourth week of December is a busy one; usually Chanukah begins during this month, Christmas is celebrated on the 25th and Kwanzaa, one of the newest winter holidays, starts on the 26th. While Christmas and Chanukah (which means dedication) celebrate faith and religious tradition, Kwanza (Swahili for first fruits) is a link to the past for African-Americans and a way to honor their ancestral connection to Africa. Although winter holidays are all different in origin, all share more in common than you would imagine. When the sun sets early and the winds blow snow against our windows, families all over the world gather together. They seek what people have always sought in winter: light, warmth, food, and human companionship. Although 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas, 5% celebrate Chanukah and 2% celebrate Kwanzaa, 100% of us are aware that this is the red letter time of the year. No matter which winter holidays your family celebrates, rest assured there will be: Lights. Whether a menorah which is lit for the duration of the holiday commemorating the miracle of a bit of oil lasting eight days; or the black, red and green candles of Kwanza representing the principles of unity, self determination, creativity, work and responsibility, purpose and faith; or the fabulous indoor and outdoor light displays and Christmas trees, hope is illuminated. A strengthening of bonds. Whether creating a beautiful home environment to spend time with family and friends or coming together for a spiritual reunion...family bonds are strengthened. Time taken off from school and work enables us to enjoy the holiday spirit. Traditional foods. Whether prepared with corn (Kwanzaa) or potatoes (Chanukah) or old family Christmas cookie recipes, guaranteed there'll be too much of it! One in five expects to gain a few pounds over the holidays, and 26% say they'll probably put on three to five pounds. Prayers. In these dark times, all three holidays help us remember the past and reaffirm our hope for a peaceful and loving future. An awareness of the less fortunate. Each holiday recognizes the plight of those who have less and encourages gift giving to those in need. The flip side of the season...jam-packed shopping malls, crazy traffic, economic pressures and a generalized heightened stress quotient...can be handled without getting in a mood if we keep in mind what's important. This time of year supplies each of us with the opportunity to do something nice just to be nice. Don't push in line. Don't freak out. Hold open a door. Smile. We promise the rewards will last far into the coming year.
Learn about all the winter holidays with information from teen girls at BeingGirl.com.