Winter Holidays

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Interesting information about winter holidays around the world

Transcript of Winter Holidays

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WINTER HOLIDAYSMany cultures celebrate winter holidays centered around the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. This day was viewed by many of these cultures as a victory over darkness by the sun. They celebrated the return of longer days as a sort of re-birth. Many of the customs and traditions we have today are centuries old and borrowed from ancient cultures around the world.

1 HOLIDAY TRADITIONSExplore holiday customs from many different holidays here


OSIRIS AND ISISImage from: Frazer writes in The Golden Bough: 3"The ritual of the nativity, as it appears to have been celebrated in Syria and Egypt, was remarkable. The celebrants retired into certain inner shrines, from which at midnight they issued with a loud cry, "The Virgin has brought forth! The light is waxing!" The Egyptians even represented the new-born sun by the image of an infant which on his birthday, the winter solstice, they brought forth and exhibited to his worshippers. No doubt the Virgin who thus conceived and bore a son on the twenty-fifth of December was the great Oriental goddess whom the Semites called the Heavenly Virgin or simply the Heavenly Goddess." 4

IMAGE FROM: shortest day and longest night dawns... the Druids called their celebration Alban Arthuan

The Winter Solstice is the time of year when we in the Northern hemisphere experience our shortest day, and when the sun is lowest in the sky at noon. The earth's natural tilt brings our side of the world leaning the furthest away from the sun - which is at its most southerly point. Our ancestors celebrated the Winter Solstice as a homage to the gods, and to ensure the expulsion of the evil winter demons. They saw the sun strengthening and the return of the warmer season, and the concept of rebirth became associated with the Winter Solstice.

SATURNALIANow, at the time of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing, was honored with a festival. The Saturnalia officially was celebrated on December 17 (a.d. XVI Kal. Ian.) and, in Cicero's time, lasted seven days, from December 17-23. Augustus limited the holiday to three days, so the civil courts would not have to be closed any longer than necessary, and Caligula extended it to five (Suetonius, XVII; Cassius Dio, LIX.6), which Claudius restored after it had been abolished (Dio, LX.25). Still, everyone seems to have continued to celebrate for a full week, extended, says Macrobius (I.10.24), by celebration of the Sigillaria, so named for the small earthenware figurines that were sold then. The Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year. Catullus (XIV) describes it as "the best of days," and Seneca complains that the "whole mob has let itself go in pleasures" (Epistles, XVIII.3). Pliny the Younger writes that he retired to his room while the rest of the household celebrated (Epistles, II.17.24). It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of gifts, particularly wax candles (cerei), perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice, and sigillaria. Martial wrote Xenia and Apophoreta for the Saturnalia.During the holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted. Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes (synthesis) were permitted, as was the pileus, a felt cap normally worn by the manumitted slave that symbolized the freedom of the season. Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god.

Native Americans had winter solstice rites. The sun images at right are from rock paintings of the Chumash, who occupied coastal California for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived. Solstices were tremendously important to them, and the winter solstice celebration lasted several days. AMERICAN CEREMONIES

6 OF HANUKKAHMenorahDreidelThe menorah is a symbol of the sacred oil lamp which stayed lit for eight days with only enough oil for one during the war fought by the Maccabees for religious freedom.

The dreidel is used in a game played during Hanukkah. The four symbols on the dreidel are interpreted as a great miracle happened here.7 (Hanukkah) in a Nutshell8

SYMBOLS OF KWANZAAEach article in this photograph is a special symbol of Kwanzaa. You can learn the meaning of each symbol at: CELEBRATES THE WINTER SOLSTICE10 SOLSTICE IN IRAN11 Although Muslims do not commemorate the winter solstice in any particular way, Ramadan sometimes falls during the winter. This month-long period honors the lunar month in which the Quran was revealed by God to humanity. It is a time to strengthen family ties, and a time of worship and contemplation.12In the world of Buddhism, an important day of celebration is December 8th. This is the day that many Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day. It was on this day in 596 BC that the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.

Bodhi Day, the day of enlightenment, can be celebrated in many ways. To the Buddhist, it is a day of remembrance and meditation, much like the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus on December 25th. Buddhist homes, you will sometimes see a fiscus tree of the genus ficus religiousa. Beginning on Bodhi Day, these trees are decorated with multi-colored lights, strung with beads to symbolize the way all things are united, and hung with three shiny ornaments to represent the Three Jewels - The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.A meal of rice and milk is significant on this holiday. According to Buddhist legend, Sujata offered this to the Buddha upon his awakening to help him regain strength.Cookies in the shape of a tree to symbolize the Bodhi Tree, or make leaf shaped cookies. The leaves of the Bodhi tree are heart shapedBUDDHA13Twas the Night Before Finals

Andrew Hund 1993

14Twas the night before finals, and all through the college,The students were praying for last minute knowledge.

Most were quite sleepy, but none touched their beds,While visions of essays danced in their heads.

Out in the taverns, a few were still drinking,And hoping that liquor would loosen their thinking.

15In my own apartment, I had been pacing,And dreading exams I soon would be facing.

My roommate was speechless, his nose in his books,And my comments to him drew unfriendly looks.

I drained all the coffee, and brewed a new pot,No longer caring that my nerves were shot.

16I stared at my notes, but my thoughts were muddy,My eyes went a blur, I just couldn't study.

"Some pizza might help," I said with a shiver,But each place I called refused to deliver.

I'd nearly concluded that life was too cruel,With futures depending on grades had in school.

17When all of the sudden, our door opened wide,And Patron Saint Put-It-Off ambled inside.

His spirit was careless, his manner was mellow,He looked all around and he started to bellow.

"What kind of student would make such a fuss,To toss back at teachers what they tossed at us?"

18"On Cliffs Notes! On Crib Notes! On Last Year's Exams!On Wingit and Slingit, and Last Minute Crams!

His message delivered, he vanished from sight,But we heard him exclaiming outside in the night.

"Your teachers have pegged you, so just do your best,Happy Finals to All, and to All, a Good Test."