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HomeworkSpot > History of the Holidays

History of the Holidays

Millions of people celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa this time of year. Ever wonder how these festivities originated? Get ready to take a walk through holiday history.

Christmas

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus approximately 2,000 years ago. But did you know that some Christmas traditions date back more than 4,000 years? Many have their roots in the Mesopotamian celebration of the New Year and in the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. Learn about these, as well as the religious roots of Christmas and the origins of Santa, Christmas trees and stockings at Christmas on the Net. For more information, visit the following sites:

Hanukkah

Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over King Antiochus of Syria, who wanted them to reject their religion and worship his gods. After the victory, the Maccabees wanted to rededicate the Jerusalem Temple, but could only find a tiny jug of oil, enough for a single day. They lit the lamp, and the tiny amount of oil stayed lit for eight days.

You can learn more about the story, and about how Hanukkah traditions such as the Dreidel developed at these sites:

  • The Story of Chanukah
    Read the story of the Maccabees.

  • Chanukah: The Festival of Lights
    Offers a practical guide to the day-to-day celebration.




  • Judaism 101: Chanukah
    Learn more about traditions surrounding the celebration.

  • Chanukah - The Festival of Lights
    Read a detailed history of Chanukah and learn about the laws and customs behind the celebration.

Kwanzaa

The newest of the December celebrations, Kwanzaa was inspired by the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and based on ancient African celebrations.

It was developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African-American scholar and activist, in 1966. Now more than 20 million people celebrate all over the world. The celebration focuses on seven principles, known by the Swahili phrase "Nguzo Saba." To learn more about the history of Kwanzaa and about how it is celebrated, visit these sites:

  • Everything about Kwanzaa
    Find a detailed description of Nguzo Saba (the seven guiding principles) and suggestions for celebrating the Kwanzaa Feast of Karumu.

  • Happy Kwanzaa
    Click on each principle to read a definition. You'll find descriptions of ceremonial accessories, suggestions for the Kwanzaa feast of Karamu and links to African facts, music, and chats.

  • CNN - Kwanzaa Page
    Read about the history of Kwanzaa and the rituals used to celebrate it.

  • The Official Kwanzaa Web Site
    Learn all about Kwanzaa through the words of Dr. Maulana Karenga.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Heri za Kwanzaa!




   --- J. Walker

 
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