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Holy Days - December

This time of year, it’s all about lights. And that’s because, in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s quite dark!

Winter Solstice (≈ Dec. 21): This holiday, which honors the longest night/shortest day of the year, has been celebrated for the longest period of time. It’s still celebrated by neo-Pagans, but it has also become a popular motif for parties, concerts, bonfires, and other community-wide events. Yule logs, Christmas trees, and mistletoe are all customs that come to us from long-ago solstice celebrations in different parts of the world. The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson for elementary-aged kids gives a great run-down of those ancient traditions.

Saturnalia: This ancient Roman holiday to honor the god, Saturn, is no longer celebrated. Historically, it began around Dec. 17 and continued for several days. Festivities included gift-giving, banquets, gambling, and general merry-making. Slave-owners also served their slaves as roles were reversed. Many scholars think the dates for Christmas and Epiphany were explicitly chosen to coincide with Saturnalia. Click here for more.

Christmas: In the Christian tradition, pretty much the entire month of December is related to the birth of Jesus. Advent goes from Dec. 1-24. The Feast of St. Nicholas is Dec 6. Las Posadas, the 9-day Mexican celebration of Mary’s pregnancy, runs from Dec. 16-24. And Christmas for non-Orthodox Christians is on Dec. 25. (For Orthodox Christians, Christmas falls on Jan. 7 of the Gregorian calendar.) This article describes how Protestant churches are now honoring Las Posadas.

Hanukkah (Dec. 22-30 this year): Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Hebrew calendar. In fact, the story behind the holiday comes from First and Second Maccabees – two books not even found in the Hebrew Bible or most Protestant Bibles. (They are found, however, in most Catholic and Orthodox Christian Bibles.) Jews have celebrated Hanukkah since before the 1st century CE, but because it’s around the same time as Christmas, it has become increasingly commercialized. Foods made with oil are the custom at Hanukkah. This site has a great kid-friendly recipe for potato latkes.
Our blog post on St. Nicholas has lots of craft ideas for various ages – including bishop’s miters (since St. Nicholas was made a bishop around 300 CE), boats (since saving a ship from a storm is one of the miracles attributed to St. Nicholas), and this no-sew drawstring bag. According to legend, a poor man once had three daughters. Each was facing a grim future since the father couldn’t afford to pay a proper dowry. As each daughter came of age, a mysterious bag of gold coins was tossed into their home where it landed in a stocking that was hanging to dry. The anonymous gifter was said to be St. Nicholas.

Supplies: piece of felt measuring 9” x 9”, piece of ribbon measuring about 30” with a safety pin in one end, sharp scissors, markers, gold wrapping foil and a few coins (or store-bought gold-covered chocolate coins).

1. Use a marker to make 16 dots (4 on each side) around the piece of felt, about 1” in from the outer edge.
2. Fold the felt and use scissors to make a little snip at each dot.
3. Weave the piece of ribbon in and out of the holes. (The safety pin will make this step easier.)
4. At the end, feed the ribbon through the starting hole and remove the safety pin.
5. Add coins to the center and pull on the ribbon ends to draw up the bag!

Additional Reading & Activities

One of the best things about Hanukkah is playing Dreidel – which is both the name of the game and the name of the spinning top. This video will teach you, in literally less than 1 minute, how to play. You can find inexpensive dreidels at craft stores, large retail stores, or your local synagogue.

Additional Reading
Best Hanukkah Videos for Kids
Winter Holidays Bring Light
Our Interfaith Advent
And, finally, if you’d like to receive daily tips, please join our public FB group: Faith Seeker Kids

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Interfaith Made Easy Unit #1 Middle School (Hard Copy)
Interfaith Made Easy Unit #1 Middle School (Hard Copy)
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