By Harriet P. Gross
The thing I find saddest about the December holiday season is that these days, it seems to begin right after Halloween. Or maybe even a bit before that…with Thanksgiving crammed in between, just like the stuffing in the turkey.
The thing I like best about this December holiday season is the lights! Beautiful! Some houses, some streets, some entire neighborhoods are lit up like – well, you know the old expression: like Christmas trees. An explosion of radiance from so many of them: candles on those trees, of course, but also on wreaths in windows.
If you look carefully, you may also see that some dark-seeming houses actually have the lights of small candles set low on their window sills. Those are in honor and celebration of Hanukkah, a Jewish festival of religious freedom. And you may also notice the candles of Kwanzaa, a newer holiday that emphasizes the ancestral values of African Americans.
Christmas is always on December 25 – and depending on your own customs, it can begin on Christmas eve and end just about whenever you choose, maybe even up to New Year’s Eve. Kwanzaa is fixed: It begins the day after Christmas and ends on the first day of the New Year. But Hanukkah, although its time is also calendar-fixed, it’s figured on a different calendar than the one we’re all used to using. It’s a moving target, because the Hebrew calendar, a lunar one that depends on the moon, will vary from year to year. There are, however, always eight days of celebration — which this year is already in full swing as you’re reading this: The evening for lighting the first candle of the holiday for 2018 is December 2!
The most important thing here is that our winter holidays are as diverse as we are. Please take some time this month, no matter which holiday may be yours, to learn a bit about the others. Make everything special by teaching your grandchildren that we can join in celebrations of all kinds, even if they’re not specifically ours. And it’s always fun to enjoy different customs with friends!
Just be sure to remember: what this trio of December holidays has in common is LIGHT – and isn’t that what everyone needs in the dark of winter? So, try to forget those premature displays of this season’s merchandise before the frost was even on the pumpkin, and concentrate on the candles! Their beautiful light can bring us together, and they have real value as teachers of group histories and American togetherness, which are – after all — the season’s most important gifts of real, long-lasting value.