December is a month of celebration! At St. George’s, as we embrace justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, we honor the diversity of religious beliefs in our community. We believe that our school is a place of belonging. We encourage you to read and learn about faiths that may be different from your own and celebrate with them throughout the month of December.
Hanukkah – November 28th – December 6th: The Jewish Festival of Lights is an eight-day celebration that commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean Revolt. The temple light burned for eight days while only having oil enough for one day. This miracle inspired the Jewish sages to proclaim a yearly eight-day festival. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown. The ninth candle called Shamash (helper) is used to light the others. Typically blessings are recited and traditional foods, such as potato latkes and jam filled donuts (sufganiyot) fried in oil are eaten.
Bodhi – December 8th (Buddhist): Bodhi commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddartha Gautama, experienced enlightenment. Rituals include: day-long meditation, prayer and study; bringing a ficus or other sacred tree home; decorating with ornaments that represent the Three Jewels: The Buddha, the Dharma (the way of truth) and the Sangha (the community of those seeking enlightenment); eating a morning meal of milk and rice; and lighting candles for 30 days to represent Buddha’s enlightenment. Services and traditions vary among different Buddhist sects, but all services commemorate the Buddha’s achievement of Nirvana and what this means for Buddhism today.
Winter Solstice – December 21st: The Pagan celebration of Winter Solstice (also known as Yule) is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the world. Ancient people were hunters and gatherers, who spent a lot of time outdoors and understood the importance of seasons and weather to their survival. The Winter Solstice falls on the shortest day of the year and was celebrated as the turning point of the year and the rebirth of the sun. The Druids (Celtic priests) cut mistletoe that grew on oak trees and gave them as blessings. Oaks were seen as sacred, and the winter fruit of the mistletoe was a symbol of life in the dark winter months. Many of the customs are still followed today and have been incorporated into the Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas.
Advent – November 28th – December 24th: Advent marks the four-week period that for many Christians commemorates the nativity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The first day of Advent is also for most Christians the beginning of the new Liturgical year.
Christmas – December 25th: Christmas is the historic celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. For Christians, Christmas represents the promise of life everlasting. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was born and died to atone for the sins of the world. For two millennia, people have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular. The giving of gifts is connected to the story of the Magi who brought gifts to the newborn Jesus. Other popular customs include caroling and Christmas music, viewing a Nativity play, exchanging Christmas cards, decorating Christmas trees, attending church services and eating a special meal.
Kwanzaa – December 26 – January 1st: This week-long African-American and Pan-African celebration was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 after the Watts Riots in Los Angeles. Kwanzaa celebrates African harvest celebrations and includes songs and dances, African drumming, storytelling, poetry reading and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, families gather, and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara, symbolizing one of the seven principals: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.
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