The holidays are a time of joy, connection, and celebration. Whether you observe Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, the sounds, smells, and symbols of the season are all around. These symbols have a rich cultural history that many of us do not know. So let us deepen our connection by finding out more about these common holiday symbols below.
Celebrated all around the world, Christmas is considered a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christmas Tree is a well known, visually beautiful symbol of Christmas that is said to symbolize the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is credited to the Germans who first brought the whole tree into their homes in the 16th century. They decorated them with candlelight, various fruits, and wooden ornaments. It brought color and light during the winter and helped them celebrate the Feast of Adam & Eve on the 24th of December.
An eight-day Jewish holiday that celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt. The nine-branched candelabra, the menorah, is lit each night and can often be seen in windows. With the center candle as the “helper” candle, it lights the other 8 candles on the menorah. The candles are lit in order and signify the victory of the Jews over the Syrians in the 2nd century.
A week long holiday to honor the African heritage within the African American community. It celebrates family, community, and culture which are represented in the three official colors of Kwanzaa: red, black, and green. The seven candles, mishumaa saba, (3 red, 3 green, and 1 black) are lit in a specific order and represent one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-determination, Responsibility, Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. The black candle, which stands in the center, represents Black people everywhere.
A 400 year old Mexican tradition, Las Posadas is celebrated for 9 days. There is caroling, praying, feasting, and the breaking of the Piñata. The seven-coned piñata represents the seven deadly sins in the Catholic faith. The stick that breaks the Piñata represents the love it takes to destroy or break through those sins and the candy and treats that pour out symbolize the forgiveness or a new beginning.