Christmas, Hanukkah, and Yule: Three December Holidays and Their Histories

Ally Boldrin, Staff Writer

In addition to Christmas, December contains many holidays that are celebrated by other religions. These holidays hold special significance towards these religions based on historical events or their beliefs. Three of these holidays are Hanukkah and Yule/Winter Solstice.

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that lasts eight days and was celebrated this year from November 28 to December 6. On each day of Haunnukah, a new candle is added to the menorah and lit up. Additionally, Hanukkah includes playing a game of dreidel, as well as eating holiday foods like latkes and sufganiyot.  This holiday is used to strengthen the ideals of Judaism and to honor the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by lighting eight candles.  While this holiday may not be mentioned in the Torah, which is used to signify the first five books in the Hebrew Bible, it is still a very important holiday to Jews and one of the most celebrated Jewish holidays. According to The Jerusalem Post, 60% of American Jews and 73% of Israeli Jews light these candles every night of Hanukkah year. 

During the winter season, Pagans and Wiccans celebrate Yule on the winter solstice. This year the holiday happens on December 21 and is used to honor the Norse God Odin. Odin was always known as the God of War and God of poems, and he also appeared in heroic literature often. Yule consists of thanking gods and goddesses for what you have, as well as celebrating nature and the way it changes. Yule celebrations vary depending on the traditions someone has specifically for this holiday. Many different rituals can be used during Yule; either rituals that have been used for some time or even recent or personal creations. Examples of Yule situations include: setting up a Yule altar, prayers for Yule, welcoming back the sun for Yule, Goddess rite for groups or Yule, and holiday tree blessings. One tradition during this holiday is using certain plants during Yule. One of these plants that are used in this religion is mistletoe. Mistletoe is said to be associated with peacemaking and helping the end of discourse or arguments. Its part in Yuletide traditions is that its common use is being hung over a doorway, but it can still be used as decoration for the festive season.

December is filled with significant holidays that have special meanings towards many, between gift-giving, celebrating the environment around you, and lighting eight candles. All holidays are a special part of many homes and cultures, and each holiday has a different and unique tradition that is important to many.