Sunday night was the first night of Hanukkah! This year, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa overlap. So, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate this season of light! Helping your child learn more about different cultures and traditions helps kids to see that people all over the world have things in common.
Did you know that Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and many other holidays around the world use candles or some kind of light in their symbolism? Looking at the different ways people all around the world celebrate their holidays is a great way to enrich your child and develop their cultural understanding!
Hanukkah (December 22nd-30th, 2019)
Sunday night was the first night of Hanukkah, The Festival of Lights! To help your child understand the history of Hanukkah, check out The Story of Hanukkah on our Youtube channel. During this holiday, Jewish families gather to remember the Maccabbees’ victory over the Greek Armies and the miracle of the menorah. In this tradition, lighting the candles over 8 days serves to remind families of the miracles and blessings that they and their forefathers have received. It is also a time to gather and enjoy family, games, and good food! To deepen your child’s understanding of Hanukkah, download HOMER Stories to listen to songs like Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah and Latkes, Lots of Latkes. Once you’ve done that, download HOMER Reading and go to our Create Section to complete the Make Your Own Story activity called, Hanukkah Fun!
Christmas (December 25th, 2019)
Christmas wasn’t originally about Santa or Elf on the Shelf, but about the birth of the baby Jesus. Having a christmas tree that is strung with fairy lights has become part of the Christmas tradition. This custom dates back to when people used to decorate their Christmas trees with candles to symbolize that Christ was the light of the world. Some people also top their Christmas trees with a star, which can represent the guiding star that lead the three kings to the baby Jesus. To encourage your child to talk more about how light and candles play a part in the Christmas tradition, go to the Go to HOMER Reading together and check out the Make Your Own Story activity called Decorate a Holiday Tree.
Kwanzaa (December 26th-January 1st, 2019)
Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but is still a celebration of family, life, and unity. It was founded in 1966 as a way to celebrate African-American heritage, community, family, justice, and nature. Similar to Hanukkah, Kwanzaa also has the tradition of lighting candles over several nights. Families who celebrate Kwanzaa light seven candles, each representing one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba), and faith (imani). During Kwanzaa families also honor their heritage with other symbols like crops, corn, the mat, a unity cup, gifts and the candle holder. To find out more about what each symbol means, check out this Sesame Street story about one family’s Kwanzaa celebration.
Lantern Festival (February 8th, 2020)
The Lantern Festival marks the final day of the traditional Chinese New Year festivities. It also falls on the first night in the Chinese calendar that has a full moon, which marks the return of Spring and symbolizes the reunion of the family. During the Lantern Festival, small lights are put into lanterns to honor deceased ancestors and in some cases, people use the lanterns to symbolize letting go of their past selves. If your child is interested in this holiday, you could use these instructions to make lanterns to put up around your home.
Diwali (November 14th, 2020)
Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights. It is called this because during this festival, people celebrating Diwali put clay lamps outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness. While it is traditionally Hindu, this holiday has become a national Indian holiday that is celebrated by members of other communities as well. Like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, Diwali is celebrated over multiple days and is seen as a time for bringing family together with fun and food! If your little one is interested in learning more about Diwali, show them these beautiful images from National Geographic: Kids.
Do any of your family’s holiday traditions include lights or flame? What does it symbolize to you? Let us know in the comments below!