The Holidays of December


One of the things that brings us together this time of year is our collective desire to find joy in traditions and celebrations. One thing we sometimes forget, however, is that celebrations look different for people of varied backgrounds, faiths, and experiences. What better time to embrace and celebrate diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) by treating others as we would want to be treated – and respecting and celebrating our differences (and some surprising similarities).

Growing up, my Methodist (Christian) family would celebrate Advent, Christmas, and New Years. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation, Christmas the celebration of Jesus’ birth, and New Years a time of starting fresh with a new year. When I converted to Catholicism in my early 20s, I learned about St. Nicholas Day and Immaculate Conception Day. These holidays take place in early December and honor Saint Nicholas – the inspiration behind Santa – and the Virgin Mary.

In recent years, due in part to my involvement in the DEI efforts at Erie Insurance, I learned that the world celebrates more than 10 holidays in December.

One of those celebrations is Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa, first celebrated in 1966, is an annual celebration of African-American history, values, family, community and culture from December 26 to January 1, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, usually on the sixth day. I think you’ll recognize the seven principles from your faith and celebration of choice: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

Another fascinating celebration is Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is observed by lighting the candles of a candelabrum with nine branches, commonly called a menorah or hanukkiah. The lighting of candles will sound familiar to those who celebrate Advent and Kwanzaa.

A holiday I learned about just this year is Bodhi Day, held this year on December 8. This Buddhist tradition honors the day in which the Buddha—Siddartha Gautauma—is said to have achieved enlightenment. Many Buddhists celebrate it through meditation.

Mexicans and Mexican-Americans often celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico who symbolizes patriotism and devotion. Millions of pilgrims typically visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in December to celebrate the festival, which marks one of several apparitions of the Virgin Mary.

Another interesting holiday celebration is Yule. Wiccans and Neo-Pagans celebrate the winter solstice (the darkest day of the year, on Dec. 21) through the festival of Yule. Yule celebrates the re-emergence of the sun and the days beginning to grow longer again. A common tradition is burning the yule log, which originally was done to celebrate the sun’s return, and has since also been folded into a Christmas tradition. Yule became associated with Christmas in the 9th century, although some still stick to the original Yule celebrations.

Learning about these holidays has opened my mind to the many beautiful celebrations across the world. It also taught me that while we may celebrate differently, there are many similarities to our celebrations as well. I encourage you to read more about them this holiday season and embrace the varied greetings you receive from those of different faiths, backgrounds and experiences. Happy Holidays!

Jen Kubiak, MS, PMP, AIS, AINS, ACS, CIIP, CLP, DAE is a Senior Project Manager at Erie Insurance Group and proud member of Region 1. She is the Lead of ERIE’s synERgIzE Business Resource Group, overseeing ERIE’s nine Affinity Networks. Jen is a past Local President, Council Director, Regional Leader, and International Task Force Chair. Her proudest accomplishments are the two amazing humans that call her “Mom” and winning the 2021 International CWC Speak-Off.

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