Welcome back to the 255! In this final week of the semester, we would like to wish all of our students the best of luck getting through their finals, projects, and exams. In celebration of the Winter Break, we are highlighting all of the wonderful holidays that make up this season. No matter what you’re celebrating this season, on behalf of the HUMSOC Division, we send you our best and warmest wishes!!

December 6 is Saint Nicholas Day. Historically, Saint Nicholas was Bishop of Myra, in what is now Turkey, in the fourth century, and he had a reputation as a giver of gifts and a defender of children. In time Christians in Europe and further East developed the tradition of leaving their shoes by the chimney in hopes that Saint Nicholas would leave them gifts. In the United States this tradition has not been widely celebrated, and Saint Nicholas, more commonly known as Santa Claus, has become more associated with Christmas than his own Feast Day. This holiday is observed by Christians in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican communions. 

December 10 through December 18 mark Hanukkah, a Jewish holiday. Hanukkah is an 8-day celebration in remembrance of the Maccabean revolt, in which Jewish rebels, let by Judah Maccabee, liberated Jerusalem from the Seleucid dynasty. When the war was won, there was only one small container of consecrated oil with which to purify the temple in accordance with Jewish Law. This oil miraculously lasted eight days, leading to the celebration we have today. Hanukkah is typically observed with friends and family in the home, and involves games and gift giving.  Hanukkah dishes typically consist of sufganiyot, latkes, apple friters, and kugel!

December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a feast of particular importance in Latin American Catholic churches. Our Lady of Guadalupe is another title for the Virgin Mary, who in 1910 was made the Patron Saint of Latin America. According to tradition, Mary appeared to Juan Diego, a poor Aztec Christian, outside of Mexico City on his way to mass. Mary told Juan Diego to tell the Bishop of Mexico City to build a church on the hill on which they were meeting. The Bishop was skeptical, and required a sign, which Mary provided when she made the hill bloom with roses in the middle of winter. The church that was built on that hill is now one of the most visited holy sites in the world, and pilgrimages to it feature prominently in celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   

December 21 is the Winter Solstice, also known as Yule. The Winter Solstice is celebrated in a variety of ways across cultures, but commonly involves feasting. Yule, which is the Germanic manifestation of Winter solstice, has been revived as part of the neopagan and wiccan traditions. While observations vary, neopagans typically commemorate Yule with feasting and gift giving. Wiccans celebrate Yule as the rebirth of the Great Horned Hunter god, and commemorate with their covens and/or families. Yule is also the origin of some of our favorite Christmas traditions, such as the Yule log or the Yule ham.  

December 25 is Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who in Christianity is the Son of God and the Messiah. Christmas is marked by the decoration of trees, gift giving, and general togetherness, and is celebrated across Christian denominations as well as by those who recognize no religious affiliation at all. 

December 26 is the first day of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, who got the name from the Swahili phrase matunda ya kwanza, meaning “first fruits of the harvest.” The holiday has its roots in the Black Nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was meant to provide African Americans with a way to reconnect with African cultural and historical heritage by study of the Nguzo saba, the seven principles of African heritage. The seven principles are Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa are dedicated to celebrating one of these principles. 

And, finally, December 31 is New Year’s Eve. This is the last day of 2020 in the Gregorian calendar,  and begins the countdown to 2021. 

Again, we would to wish all of our students the happiest of holidays! As you work through this semester’s final stretch remember to stay hydrated and take breaks. As we depart for Winter break we wish you rest and merriment, along with a reminder to be kind and stay safe. We look forward to seeing all of you in the new year and new semester!!

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