*Hanukka is a recognized Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days. It commemorates the rededication of the Holy temple in Jerusalem during a revolt in the second century. It begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Kislev on the Hebrew calendar which could cause it to begin in November or December. It is observed through the lighting of a candle on the Menorah on each night of the holiday. It is said the reason for the lighting is for the “illumination of the house without” to remind all of the blessing of the holiday. There are three blessings performed over the candles. There are also gifts given, though charity is encouraged overall. As with most traditional holidays, there are specific songs, prayers and foods associated with the holiday. (http://naomi-rockler-gladen.suite101.com/hanukkah-101-faq-a33914)
*Ramadan is an Islamic holiday that takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Those who celebrate Ramadan fast for every day of the month by abstaining from food, drink and some physical needs during the day. It is seen as a way to purify and cleanse the soul and turn attention to God while focusing on self-sacrifice. Muslims use the holiday to revaluate life in regards to Islamic guidance and frequently make peace with those who have wronged them, strengthen ties with family and friends, and eliminate bad habits. Reading the Qur’an is encouraged during the month and special prayers called Tarawih, are held at mosques ever night of the month. Like Hanukkah, charity is greatly encouraged. (http://www.holidays.net/ramadan/story.htm)
*Kwanza is a holiday celebrated by African Americans. It started on 12/26/66. The name comes from the Swahili word for first fruits. The purpose of the holiday is to enforce a connection with African identities and provide a commonality between all Africans and African-Americans no matter faith or background. It was developed through the social and political changes of the Sixties and the Civil Rights Movement and was used as a way to develop freedom for self-identity. The commercialism associated with Christmas it not a main focal point in this holiday. There are symbols of tradition, origin, the Seven Principles (Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith), libation of the ancestors, liberation, and gifts for the fruits of the labor of the parents and rewards of the seeds sown by the children represented during its celebration. A flag has also been developed as a symbol for Kwanza and is often recognized by the African-American community as a Pan-Africanism or Black Nationalism flag which represents red for blood, black for the black people and green for the land. (http://www.melanet.com/kwanzaa/whatis.html#why)
*Boxing Day is celebrated mostly in Britain, Australia, and Canada. Boxing Day is designated as December 26th, the day after Christmas. It is said to exist because servants were required to work on Christmas, but had the following day off. The name originates from the idea that servants were presented with boxes from their employers as they left to celebrate the holidays. It also is debated that the name comes from the theory that boxes were placed in churches so parishes could place coins or money into them and they would be given out the day after Christmas. Other theories include that a box was placed on a ship while in port during the Age of Exploration and if the crew wanted a safe journey, they would place money into the box and seal it. If the ship returned safely, the box was given to a priest and the box would be sealed until Christmas with its contents shared with the poor. This tradition is still continuing today with many school children placing items in a box to be shipped to or given to needy families or larger than normal tips given to service workers. Additionally, it is recognized as a British bank holiday, and therefore most government agencies are closed on that day. (http://www.factmonster.com/spot/boxingday1.html http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Xmas/boxingday.html)
I know, I’ve filled your mind with quite a bit of cultural information. I encourage you to do your own research on other holidays like Yule and Humanlight. Learning about other holidays, religions, traditions, and cultures can be nothing if not enlightening. Who knows, you might just find something that really appeals to you and start celebrating something new this or next year!