Countless other holidays, including Halloween and New Year’s Eve, bring people together. Every October 31, adults encourage children to go door-to-door and ask for sweets — trick or treat — despite being constantly advised not to accept candy from strangers. Even more interesting is growing up, adults warned you to stay away from large, noisy crowds, but on December 31 each year, such masses include nothing but cheers, smiles & hugs.
These two examples are just two of the many ways people celebrate together without prejudice or shyness; celebrations bring people together, regardless of their backgrounds. Even on solemn occasions, we come together to remember past tragedies or burials as a collective whole to celebrate life even in death and support each other.
How Did Winter Holidays Begin in the U.S.?
We root traditions and customs associated with winter solstice celebrations in the United States in Yule’s historical origins. The Pagan observed the Yule festival around the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere Yule’s (below the equator, the winter solstice occurs around June 21). In the sky above us, something unique happens.
At its most significant distance from the equatorial plane, the sun reaches the tilt of the earth’s axis in the Northern Hemisphere. Many cultures around the world often see winter festivals as light celebrations. Besides Christmas, there are many other holidays, including Hanukkah with its glowing menorahs, Kwanzaa & many others.
Since they celebrated Yule celebrations with candles, bonfires & other forms of light, light is essential for the festival.
Why Do People Continue to Celebrate the Winter Holidays?
In the U.S., the winter holiday season (from November to January) is for Americans to gather with families and friends and express their gratitude for life. Americans prepare & serve traditional Thanksgiving dishes at churches and community centers from coast to coast, mindful of their good fortune.
Some people donate to food banks and charities that feed the hungry. Even the non-religious get inspiration to give to others with the approach of Christmas celebrated on December 25. As the holidays approach, millions of Americans share their time and money to help the less fortunate.
What Types of Winter Celebrations Do People Partake In?
Despite the diverse range of events we celebrate, all such gatherings bring people together in harmony and peace. Holidays of all kinds make us forget our troubles and enjoy and experience the peace needed to improve ourselves & others. Here are a few we associate with the winter holidays.
Let’s Start With Christmas
In the United States, as in other countries, people attend church services to commemorate the anniversary of Jesus’ birth more than 2,000 years ago. Christians & non-Christians alike share the American tradition of exchanging presents. For Christmas, carolers stroll residential neighborhoods or gather in public squares, singing traditional carols & spreading cheer.
As part of the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, the president lights the National Christmas Tree in Washington DC every December. Each Christmas, they decorate the White House with holiday wreaths and trees adorned with handmade ornaments from every region in the nation.
Visitors from all walks of life come to tour the unique public rooms of the White House. Webcams are available for those unable to travel to Washington to view the holiday decorations.
Winter holiday festivities in the U.S. embrace the diversity of American faiths.
The Nine-Branched Menorah For Hanukkah
In over 2,000 years, the Jewish holiday Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah falls between late November & late December (varying from year to year). The Jews celebrate by lighting a nine-branched candle holder called a menorah over eight nights and days.
Playing dreidel (a spinner inscribed with Hebrew letters), eating doughnuts & latkes and exchanging gifts are all part of Hanukkah celebrations. Since 1993, the White House has lit a Hanukkah menorah each year, a tradition established by President Clinton. White House Hanukkah parties began in 2001 with President George W. Bush & they have continued every year since.
The African-American Kwanzaa
African Americans have been celebrating Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1 since 1966 to celebrate their African cultural & historical roots. Kwanzaa is celebrated by decorating their homes with African-inspired art, kente cloth & fruits that symbolize African ideals.
Kwanzaa is about honoring family, community & culture. Drumming, music & a candle-lighting ritual may be part of ceremonies. A feast known as karamu concludes the festivities. Black families celebrate Kwanzaa alongside Christmas today.
Bye Bye Winter Holidays and in With the New Year
As the new year begins, the U.S. holiday season officially ends. New Year’s Day festivities start the night before on New Year’s Eve. In the United States, as in most of the world, the new year is seen as a time for fresh starts with great hopes for the future & resolutions to better oneself.
In the late evening of New Year’s Eve, Americans host parties and attend concerts, fireworks displays & other celebrations. Every region has its traditions for celebrating holidays.
As the clock strikes midnight in Times Square, thousands of people watch a crystal ball drop from the sky in a New York tradition that dates back to 1907. A televised countdown airs across the country.
New Year in Other Cities and Interesting Superstitions
Rather than dropping crystal balls in Easton MD, residents drop crabs in homage to the extensive seafood resources along the Maryland coast. In Mount Olive NC, the residents prepare an enormous pickle as a holiday decoration, while residents of Tempe AZ prepare a gigantic tortilla chip for the celebration. Residents in Plymouth WI display a giant cheese mound in honor of their dairy-related economy.
In several U.S. cities, parades and football games celebrate New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day, the first newborn gets gifts & media coverage. Many immigrant groups brought rituals and superstitions into the United States with New Year’s Day. Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is good luck in Southern states, an ancient tradition originating in Asia and Africa.
For New Year’s dinner, Eastern Europeans serve cabbage and sauerkraut as prosperity and long-life symbols. Immigrants of different nationalities believed that making loud noises guaranteed a new year free from evil. New Year’s celebrations see the last of fireworks & our holiday light displays in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Northern Virginia closing the winter holiday celebrations.