A holiday guide

By Linda Cortez and Vanessa Garcia

Graphic by Tanner Willis and Andrea Godoy


Celebrated: Starts 25th day of

Kislev (In 2011, Dec. 20-28)

Based in: Judaism

Began: 165 B.C.

Symbols: Menorah, Driedel, Gelt

In 165 B.C., the Jewish people removed the Syrian-Greeks from Israel and restored their holy temple; thus, Hanukkah was born. Before the victory, the Syrian-Greek Emperor Antiochus ordered everyone to worship their god, Zeus.

The traditional symbol of Hanukkah is the menorah, which holds nine candles. The middle candle, the shammash, is a servant candle used to light the other eight candles.

The menorah represents the miracle of the lamp burning for eight days on barely enough oil for one.

A traditional Hanukkah game is played with a driedel and gelt, Hanukkah money.

The driedel is a spinning top with four Hebrew letters inscribed on its sides. The letters are translated to nun, gimmel, hay and shin, which stands for the phrase, “A great miracle happened there.”

Children play the game for gelt.

Driedel was popular during the ruling of Antiochus.

Jewish people were not allowed freedom of religion. They had secret gatherings to study the Torah and brought a spinning top with them.

When soldiers would see them gathered together, the Jewish people hid the Torah and pretended to play driedel.




Graphic by Tanner Willis and Andrea Godoy

Celebrated: Dec. 26-Jan. 1

Based in: African Culture

Began: 1966


Mazao (The Crops)

Mkeka (The Mat)

Kinara (The Candle Holder)

Muhindi (The Corn)

Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles)

Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup)

An estimated 18 million African-Americans take part in Kwanzaa.

The celebration, which takes place Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, honors principles that are essential in building strong, fruitful families and communities in Africa.

The ritual begins with the Kinara, which is a traditional candleholder. It is placed on top of a mat, or Mkeka.

Traditionally, one black candle is placed in the middle to represent the color of the celebrants’ skin, three red candles are placed on the left and three green candles are place on the right.

The red candles represent the blood that their ancestors shed, and green represents their hope and native land.

The seven candles represent a distinct principle beginning with the unity, which is the middle candle.

The candles are lighted each day alternately from left to right.



Graphic by Tanner Willis and Andrea Godoy

Celebrated: Dec. 23

Based in: American pop culture Began: 1997

Symbols: Festivus pole, airing of grievences, feats of strength

Festivus was invented by Dan O’Keefe and was made famous by his son Daniel, a screenwriter for the TV show, Seinfeld.

In episode of Seinfeld called “The Strike,” Frank Costanza (Jerry Stiller) expresses his concerns about the increase in inappropriate pressures and consumerism that tend fill the holiday season.

Costanza shares a story about shopping for a Christmas gift for his son, George Costanza (Jason Alexander), when he decided there should be a new holiday. It would be called “Festivus, for the rest of us!”

The symbol for Festivus is the Festivus pole, an unadorned aluminum pole.

Along with the Festivus pole, there is the Festivus dinner.

During the dinner, the guests raise their glasses and participate in the “airing of grievances.”

Traditionally, each person shares his or her disappointments in friends and family with everyone at the dinner.

Participants also observe “Festivus miracles,” where ordinary events are explained as miracles.

Festivus is not complete until the head of the household is wrestled to the floor by the chosen opponent, according to Costanza.



Graphic by Tanner Willis and Andrea Godoy

Celebrated: Dec. 25

Based in: Christianity

Began: 400 A.D.

Symbols: Christmas tree, manger, angel

Christmas originated in the 4th century when the Catholic Church set the birth of Jesus Christ to coincide with the Roman celebration “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti,” the birthday of the unconquered sun.

During that century, celebrating birthdays was frowned upon, but church leaders agreed to arrange a festival in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

People already were accustomed to celebrating the winter solstice, so the winter season was perfect for Christmas.

Christmas trees are a predominate part of Christmastime; however, they were not part of the Christmas holiday at first. Christmas trees became a tradition in Germany during the 16th century.


Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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