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More than Christmas: Learn about some of the other holidays celebrated this time of year

A note from Dr. Aaron J. Griffen, VP of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Ash Gelb, Manager of Diversity Equity and Inclusion, and Mercedes Blea-Davis, Manager of Diversity and Belonging

It’s the holiday season, and there are a wide variety of celebrations that take place starting in November through the end of the year. Thanksgiving and other U.S. holidays have various meanings, including historical and/or religious contexts from the vantage point of the settlers and colonists as well as the Indigenous peoples. As we begin the celebratory traditions and rituals for December and heading into January, it is our hope that we take time to acknowledge the multiple ways our families, friends, colleagues, students and staff celebrate the holidays.

Meaning of Holiday

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word holiday is derived from the “Old English hāligdæg, from hālig holy + dæg day.” Literally speaking, a “holiday” is a “holy day. It is common practice in English speaking countries to simply say “Happy Holidays,” regardless of one’s religious background. In Britain, to go on holiday means to experience a time away from home, school or business, usually in order to relax or travel. The way we celebrate our birthdays, our anniversaries and other meaningful occasions (yearly) could be considered a holiday, albeit a personal one. 

December Holidays

With December comes the frostiness of the winter season, although the Denver area has been very short on snow this year. Nevertheless the frostiness brings comfort for some as we snuggle up in our winter garments or next to the nearest heating source. For others, the warmth of the season is secondary and even tertiary to the various meanings and popularity of specific holidays within and among several cultures of our community. Some of the most popular holidays celebrated during December and heading into January are Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and Ramadan. 

Christmas is one of the most common holidays. It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. On Dec. 24, Christmas Eve, many people go to church to worship.

Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is a holiday celebrated by the Jewish faith. It is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which is in late November and December.

Kwanzaa is a holiday honored throughout the African community. It brings a cultural message and lets one celebrate their African heritage. It is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. The seven principles of Kwanzaa are known as the Nguzo Saba. They are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith).

Ramadan is a special month symbolizing mercy in the Islamic lunar calendar. The people who celebrate Ramadan refine and purify their soul, refocus attention and self-sacrifice.

Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas are only a few of the many holidays during the winter. These, like other holidays, provide a diverse selection of customs that take place during this season.

Call to Action

As we continue to build our holiday awareness, we all should seek to incorporate learning about our neighbors, friends, colleagues, family members, and students’ customs, cultures and celebrations into our personal and professional development. Below are some resources to support us on our individual and collective continuing journeys: 

Holiday Resources