Winter Holidays

Winter Holidays


Happy Holidays. Dreidel, Christmas Tree, and a Kwanzaa Menorah.

During the next month, three of the holidays that will be celebrated are Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa.

We want to not only recognize these important holidays but to also share some information about the traditions associated with the holiday and its significance for families in our community. Since there is no universal way in which families celebrate holidays, this information is designed to enhance our collective understanding and serve as a foundation for conversations among and between neighbors and friends.

These holidays are not directly connected to the Winter Solstice, however, the lighting of candles and lights are integral to the traditions of each holiday.

Four Fun Facts About the Winter Solstice: 

  1. The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning "the Sun stands still", marking the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year. This year, the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere is on December 21st at 10:59 AM EST.
  2. New York City will experience 9 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight, compared to 15 hours and 5 minutes on the summer solstice. Helsinki, Finland will get 5 hours and 49 minutes of light, while Barrow, Alaska will not have a sunrise at all.
  3. The December Solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22, or 23, though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare. The last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303.
  4. In the Southern Hemisphere, December 21st is the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, because equinoxes and solstices are on opposite sides of the earth.


Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by Jewish families across the world. The holiday takes place for eight nights and days, commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple. This year, Hanukkah  begins in the evening of Sunday, November 28 and ends in the evening of Monday, December 6.

A Few Fun Facts

  1. The word "hanukkah" comes from the Hebrew word "Hinuch", or "to teach".
  2. Gift-giving isn't a traditional part of Hanukkah, but children were given money as an incentive to study the Torah.
  3. There are 16 ways to spell Hanukkah. Since it is transliterated from Hebrew letters, there are many different ways to spell the name of the holiday.. The most common spellings in English are "Hanukkah" or "Chanukah".
  4. Jimmy Carter was the first US president to celebrate Hanukkah in 1979. Every president since has recognized Hanukkah with a special menorah-lighting ceremony. George W. Bush was the first president to host a Hanukkah party in the White House.


Christmas is celebrated by many on December 25th, while Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on or near January 7th. Information about Orthodox Christmas, including the traditions and countries where it is traditionally celebrated is included in the links below.

Five Fun Facts About Christmas:

  1. The tradition of Christmas trees goes back to ancient Egyptians and Romans, who decorated with evergreens during the winter solstice to signify that spring would return.
  2. The tradition of children leaving snacks for Santa began with the Dutch. On St. Nicholas' feast day on December 6, Dutch children leave him food and drink to be exchanged for gifts overnight.
  3. "Jingle Bells" was originally a Thanksgiving song. James Lord Pierpont wrote the song called "One Horse Open Sleigh" for his church's Thanksgiving concert in the mid-19th century. Then in 1857, the song was re-released under the title we all know. Today, it's still among the most popular Christmas songs.
  4. The eight tiny reindeer have had lots of names- Rudolph was almost named Rollo or Reginald, which doesn't quite have the same ring to it. His crew also had lots of other names. They've also been called Flossie, Glossie, Racer, Pacer, Scratcher, Feckless, Ready, Steady, and Fireball.



Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th through January 1st each year. 

A Few Fun Facts

  1. The holiday was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966 to celebrate family, culture, and heritage, and is modeled after the first harvest celebrations in Africa.
  2. The colors of Kwanzaa are a reflection of the Pan-African movement representing "unity" for peoples of all African descent worldwide: Black for the people, Red for the noble blood that unites all people of African ancestry, and Green for the rich land of Africa.
  3. There are 7 principles and 7 symbols that emphasize a unique set of values and ideals during the 7 days of Kwanzaa, also spelled with 7 letters, highlighting the power of 7.
  4. With over 2000 languages spoken on the continent of Africa, Kwanzaa adopted one of the many unifying languages, Swahili, which is spoken by millions in Africa. The name Kwanzaa comes from a Swahili phrase meaning "first fruits".

What if your family will not be celebrating a holiday during the winter?

While many children and families celebrate holidays, particularly in the winter, there are children and families who may not celebrate holidays in the winter or at any time of year. With this in mind, here are a few resources to provide guidance. There are a variety of perspectives presented, so each reader can find the strategy that works best for them.