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A look at winter holidays. Brea Barthel RPI’s Advising & Learning Assistance Center Revised 12/4/2013. Q: How many different winter holidays are there?. A: Lots! Winter solstice Christmas (and “Little Christmas”) Hanukah (or “Chanukah”) Kwanzaa New Year’s Day. Happy solstice!.

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a look at winter holidays

A look at winter holidays

Brea Barthel

RPI’s Advising & Learning Assistance Center

Revised 12/4/2013

q how many different winter holidays are there
Q: How many different winter holidays are there?

A: Lots!

  • Winter solstice
  • Christmas (and “Little Christmas”)
  • Hanukah (or “Chanukah”)
  • Kwanzaa
  • New Year’s Day
happy solstice
Happy solstice!
  • Usually solstice is on December 21st or 22nd
  • The shortest day of the year (in Northern hemisphere; longest in Southern hemisphere)
  • Celebrates the coming of the light with “evergreen” trees and “yule logs” (big fires)
  • Mistletoe tradition: you can kiss anyone standing under this plant
  • Celebrates a natural phenomenon: predates Christianity
merry christmas
“Merry Christmas”
  • Usually celebrated on December 25
  • Celebrated on January 6 (“Little Christmas” or “Three Kings Day”) in some religions
  • Colors: bright red and bright green
  • Three aspects
    • Religious holiday: Christ’s birthday
    • Domestic holiday: family get-together
    • Commercial holiday: gifts & decorations
religious christian holiday
Religious (Christian) holiday
  • Birthday of Jesus Christ, “the Son of God,” by Mary, the mother of Jesus
  • Tradition has Christ born in a “manger” (a box for feeding animals)
  • A bright star overhead led “The Three Wise Men” (or “Three Magi”) from Africa to the manger
  • Angels sang to the shepherds
  • “Nativity” scene (or “creche”) usually shows a manger, Mary, Joseph (her husband) & infant, plus angels, camels, shepherds, more


christian celebrations songs
Christian celebrations & songs
  • Celebrating “Advent” the 4 weeks before
  • Going to “midnight Mass” Christmas Eve (12/24)
  • Singing religious “Christmas carols”
    • “Silent Night”
    • “Joy to the World”
    • “Oh come, all ye faithful”
    • “The first Noel”
    • …and many more
christmas as a domestic holiday family winter celebration
Christmas as a domestic holiday: family & winter celebration
  • Santa Claus (loosely based on St. Nicholas) flies to every house in his sled pulled by reindeer
  • “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” (1950s songs)
  • “Christmas trees,” house lights & decorations
  • “Christmas cards” or holiday cards
  • Candy canes & snowflakes
  • Christmas cookies!
  • Famous poem “A Visit from St. Nick” was first published in a Troy NY newspaper.
a visit from st nick 12 23 1823
“A Visit from St. Nick” (12/23/1823)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound: He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes & soot…

christmas as a commercial holiday
Christmas as a commercial holiday
  • Total 2012 US holiday retail sales? $579.5Billion http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=Pages&sp_id=1140
  • Biggest shopping day: “Black Friday”
  • Black Friday spending in 2013: $57.4Billion http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-02/black-friday-weekend-spending-drop-pressures-u-s-stores.html
  • “Cyber Monday”: $1.7 Billion in 2013http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/03/us-usa-retail-shoppertrak-idUSBRE9B000020131203
  • Biggest shopping week: the last week before Christmas (33% of Christmas sales)
  • Estimated average gift sales, 2011: $740(http://www.gallup.com/poll/150737/consumers-holiday-spending-intentions-perk-november.aspx
happy hanukah
Happy Hanukah!
  • “Judaism” predates Christianity; shared history in “Old Testament” (Bible; Christians added “New Testament”)
  • Judaism represented by 6-pointed “Star of David”
  • Hanukah, the “festival of lights,” occurs in December or late November (lunar calendar).
  • Celebrates that a small bit of lamp oil lasted 8 days, helping Jews fend off a military attack
  • Minor holiday in Jewish tradition, but heavily promoted now as an alternative to Christmas
  • Colors: blue and white
hanukah symbols
Hanukah symbols
  • “Menorah,” a 9-candle holder
  • A main candle is lit each night, then one more for each night of the celebration (so 1 more on 1st night, 2 more on 2nd night...)
  • “Dreidl,” a special spinning top that children use in games
  • Sacks of “gelt” (chocolate “coins” wrapped in gold foil)
  • Blue & white decorations
happy kwanzaa
Happy Kwanzaa!
  • A new holiday invented in 1966 to strengthen African-American communities
  • Now celebrated by millions worldwide
  • Runs from 12/26 to 1/1 (seven days)
  • Each day celebrates a different value
  • Colors: red, green, and black

Drawing & more info:

seven guiding principles based on swahili words
Seven “guiding principles” based on Swahili words
  • Umoja (Unity)
  • Kujichagulia (Self-determination)
  • Ujima (Collective responsibility)
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics)
  • Nia (Purpose; personal goals)
  • Kuumba (Creativity)
  • Imani (Faith in ourselves)

Drawing & more info:

happy new year
Happy New Year!
  • January 1st starts a new year
  • Celebrated on New Year’s Eve (12/31) with parties, champagne, fireworks, noisemakers
  • “First Night” arts celebrations in some cities
  • “Dropping the ball” in NYC’s Times Square (estimated 1M on site)
  • “Making resolutions” (setting goals) for the new year
  • Colors: silver & gold (“precious metals” ) to show celebration
the best winter events for us
The best winter events for us…
  • Troy’s “Victorian Stroll” this Sunday, 11 am – 5 pmLots of activities, all over downtown(even bigger than Troy Night Out!)www.victorianstroll.com
  • Semester break!

Have a joyous break, and a great winter!