“Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.” — Washington Irving
The Christmas season is upon us. Christmas, celebrated around the world on December 25th, commemorates the birth of Christ and is one of the most important days in the Christian calendar. Though is it a religious observance, Christmas has many cultural manifestations which vary in different countries. In the U.S., familiar traditions include decorating of Christmas trees, singing carols, exchanging gifts, and welcoming Santa Claus on his annual visit.
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Hanukkah, also spelled Chanukah, is a Jewish holiday sometimes known as the Festival of Lights. It’s an eight day festival beginning on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. This year, Hanukkah is observed from sunset, December 16th to nightfall December 24th.
Hanukkah marks the victory of the Jews over the forces of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and the rededication of the desecrated Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Talmud, there was only enough consecrated oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day, but the lights burned for eight days. The festival is observed by lighting candles of the Menorah, one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night.
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The Thanksgiving holiday originated with the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony who celebrated the harvest of 1621 with a multi-day feast. Despite its early beginnings, Thanksgiving became a Federal holiday only in 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the final Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving Day. In 1939 President Franklin Roosevelt declared that Thanksgiving would be observed on the second to last Thursday of the month. That year November had five Thursdays. Since Thanksgiving signaled the start of the holiday shopping season, Roosevelt wanted to give the economy a boost by providing an extra week of shopping. Not everyone agreed with this decision and in 1941 Congress passed a bill designating Thanksgiving as a national holiday to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.
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Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11th, the date on which the Armistice ending World War I was signed. In fact, this holiday was known as “Armistice Day.” The name was changed after World War II as the holiday’s focus was expanded to honor veterans of all conflicts. Veterans Day is typically marked by solemn ceremonies of remembrance and parades.
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Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, is celebrated each year on October 31st. This popular holiday is commonly celebrated by trick-or-treating, carving jack o’lanterns and general mischief-making.
Halloween links| Halloween Books for Kids
Columbus Day, observed annually on the second Monday of October, commemorates Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas on October 12, 1492. In New England, the long weekend is a traditional time to get out and see the fall foliage and enjoy the mild weather while it lasts!
Columbus Day Links | Christopher Columbus Booklist