Winter holidays- Celebrate diversity!

Winter holidays bring families together, allow us to honor our traditions and roots.  But there is something else they can give us, a chance to teach our children to be open-minded and respectful towards other cultures.  We can virtually travel the world, look at the map and point to various places that celebrate different holidays.  Try it with us!

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The Jewish Festival of lights is celebrated for 8 days.  Each night Jewish families light a new candle in the menorah and remember the story of Hanukkah.  Families get together, cook and laugh.  It is also a special time for giving and sometimes gifts are exchanged on each night of Hannukah!  Lots of games are played, the most popular is dreidel.  This year Hannukah begins on December 24th.

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Kwanzaa is an African American holiday.  This year is its 50th anniversary.  It is celebrated on December 26th through January 1st.   It is not a religious holiday and it does not replace other holidays, like Christmas or Ramadan.  It is a celebration that honors the values of ancient African cultures and is based on the year-end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout Africa for thousands of years.  Kwanzaa is celebrated for 7 days, each day a new candle is lit and a new idea is honored, like creativity, self-determination or unity.

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Ramadan is a period of 1 month when Muslims fast during the day and give up bad habits in an effort to make themselves better.  At the end of the month Eid al-Fitr takes place, a big festival.  People dress up in their finest clothes, give gifts to children and spend special time with families.  Families often donate money to charities to help poor people buy new clothes and food so they too can celebrate.  ** good source of info if you have more questions.

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Diwali is the biggest Indian festival of lights, it celebrates victory of good over evil.  The holiday takes place over 5 days.  Colorful fireworks light up the sky.  Traditional candles called diyas are lit, and homes are decorated with colorful lights and rangoli – patterns made with colored rice or powder.   Diwali took place on October 30th this year and will be in October again next year.  

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Orthodox Christmas

This holiday is celebrated in Russia and a few other Eastern European countries on January 7th.  It is very similar to the Christmas celebrated in the United States with a Christmas tree, presents and special family time together.  The reason it is 2 weeks later is because it follows a different calendar called – Gregorian.  In addition to Father Frost (Santa Clause) there is also a Snow Maiden, his granddaughter who comes to give our presents and have fun with the children.

Whatever your holiday may be, let it be a peaceful and happy one!

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