I don’t know about you, but our house is a veritable “season for holidays” zone this time of year. We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah and anything else anyone in our universe wants to bring to the table. It is a joyous time with tons of amazing food, decorations, activities, and traditions that create some of the best bonding moments we’ve ever known. These two holidays, however, are well-known in our neck of the world at this time of year. Decorations along our streets cater to both, and although Christmas carols are pretty much the only tune in town for the season, there are Hanukkah songs peppered in, here and there. But if you’re up for a little variety in your winter celebration, there is much more to invite friends and loved ones to partake in than Santa’s elves and dreidel spinning.
As we wrap our last present to put under the tree for tomorrow morning and light the 3rd candle in our menorah, we turn our attention to some of the other cold-weather holidays enjoyed and beloved around the world. Since we’re super late on all of our shopping for both and are on our way out into the crazy world of long lines and shoulder to shoulder mall counters, here’s a lightning round of seven ways to keep the spirit bright in order of their celebration day so you can indulge throughout the — if not this then next — season.
Holidays we just missed
The cold weather may be just ramping up but these occasions have come and gone, giving you something to look forward to next year.
St. Nicholas Day, December 6
I’m sure you knew this was a real guy, not just some made-up dude the Coca-Cola company created to sell soda to the masses, right? St. Nicholas was a devout Christian in 3rd century Turkey. He is the patron saint of school children, thieves, sailors, travelers and clergy, and is known for having sold all of his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor, sick and suffering. He’s the inspiration for Santa Claus and one of the stories of his generosity goes that a poor father with three daughters could not afford their dowry. As their shoes dried by the fire every night — a tradition back in the day — St. Nicholas snuck in to slip some gold in their shoes for them to find in the morning, which helped the poor man to marry off his daughters. So, on the anniversary of St. Nicholas’ death throughout the world, little gifts are left in shoes or loved ones are surprised with a little treat.
St. Lucia Day, December 13
Celebrated just prior to Christmas in Scandinavia, St. Lucia Day is a festival of lights commemorating Saint Lucy, one of the earliest martyrs killed by the Romans in 304 CE for her religious beliefs. Each town chooses a young lady to lead a procession through the streets on this day, dressing her in white robes, and placing a wreath of candles on her head commemorating the martyr. It kicks off the Christmas holiday as well as being a precursor to Winter Solstice. The purpose of the outfit and the parade is to bring light and hope to the darkest time of the year.
Winter Solstice, December 20-23
Just as with Summer Solstice, the start of the new season is more than just the weather changing. The actual start of Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and where you will see your longest shadow at noon due to the location of the sun. In the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate it in December, but in the Southern Hemisphere, winter is in June. There are all sorts of festivals and feasts of celebration around the world, and in ancient times bonfires were lit to coax the sun to come back again.
A holiday you can still (just) catch
Las Posadas, December 16-24
Latin American countries celebrate this sacred and festive 9 days as a reflection of the 9 months the Virgin Mary was pregnant with Baby Jesus. “Posadas” means “lodging” or “accommodation” in Spanish and Las Posadas is a reenactment of the journey taken by Mary and Joseph as they sought shelter. Every night, children or Posaditas, go from house to house “seeking shelter.” They are turned away every night until the 9th when they are brought inside as a way to show the sacred family is given lodging, eat traditional foods such as tamales and enjoy a fiesta to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Holidays to look forward to
Kwanzaa, December 26-January 1
Cal State Long Beach professor and head of Black Studies, Dr. Maulana Karenga, wanted to bring the black community together after the 1966 Watts Riots. He looked at harvest traditions in both Ashanti and Zulu rituals and came up with seven principles of African American life, creating Kwanzaa. The word comes from “matunda ya kwanza” or “first fruits” in Swahili. Seven candles are lit in a “kinara” over the course of seven days, and while every family celebrates in their own way, each day ends with a large, communal feast. The seven principles are Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.
Three Kings Day or the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6
Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar — these are the three kings to have visited the Baby Jesus the Twelfth Night (hi, Shakespeare) after His birth, bringing Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh then devoting their lives to Him. The gold represents Jesus as King of the Jews, frankincense reflects Jesus’ divinity, and myrrh, which is a perfume used to mask the smell of embalming, shows that Jesus would someday suffer and die. Predominantly a Catholic holiday, children leave their shoes by the door for gifts to be placed inside, King Cakes are baked with a treat hidden and whoever gets it wears a crown, and other celebrations of this Day of Epiphany. Oh, and it’s the beginning of Lent and the whole reason for Mardi-Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Rio. Just so’s ya know.
Chinese New Year — the Year of the Rat, January 25 to February 5
Out with the old and in with the new — Chinese New Year begins spring cleaning and releasing old ills to let in new possibilities. The belief that every birth year correlates with a specific personality has led to 12 animal spirits representing various eras in time — Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. 2020 is the year of the Rat, the first animal in the Chinese zodiac. Quick-witted, resourceful and smart, the most recent rat years are 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 and, of course, 2020. Truly known as the Lunar New Year — because it starts a new lunar cycle — some ways to celebrate this holiday are decorating with the color red (it represents wealth and wards off the evil Nian, a lion-like monster) — giving red envelopes with money, hanging paper lanterns, making dim sum, clearing out clutter and dressing in new outfits, and eating oranges, pomelos, fish, and candied fruits. Flowers such as orchids and peonies are strewn about and fireworks are displayed along with elaborate parades and various festivities.
Celebrating the warmth of the season
We’re big believers in incorporating these and more into our seasonal festivities — a king cake here, dim sum there, shoes by the door, a kinara burning bright... Variety always brings us closer together during this season of giving and love.
As we dash out to grab last-minute shows of our love and care for the ones in our lives, we wish you all the great gift of blissful sleep, inspiring dreams, and fulfilling waking up for the holidays. Whatever your celebration, may it bring you peace, love, and joy.
Happy Season of Holidays from all of us at Sleep Club.