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Scholastic News

Holidays Share Traditions
By Karen Fanning


Can you find the one common item in each of these holiday dreams? Here's a hint: What is the star shaped item in the first dream balloon and what is usually inside it?
Illustration courtesy of Sam Weissman
Merry Christmas. Happy Kwanzaa. Eid mubarak. Although you and your classmates are exchanging different greetings this holiday season, you might be surprised to learn that many of your favorite holidays share similar traditions.

A Ray of Light
During Hanukkah, Jewish families light candles in a special candleholder called a menorah. They light one candle each night, until the eighth and final night, when all the candles are lit.

Similarly, each day during the seven days of Kwanzaa, African-American families light a candle representing one of Kwanzaa’s seven principles. After each candle is placed in a candelabra called a kinara, families discuss the principle of the day.

Some Christians celebrate Christmas by lighting Advent candles on the four Sundays before Christmas, known as the season of Advent. Each Sunday, when the next candle is lit, members of the congregation recite a passage that explains the meaning of that Sunday in Advent.

Many families mark the Winter Solstice, which celebrates the rebirth of the sun, by lighting candles.

Gifts for All
Families and friends may also exchange gifts as part of their Winter Solstice festivities. Jewish children receive gifts or money during the eight days of Hanukkah. On Christmas morning, Christian children wake up to find presents stuffed in their stockings and piled under the Christmas tree. On the seventh day of Kwaanza, family members exchange handmade gifts and other presents. Muslims mark the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan with a joyous festival call Eid-ul-Fitr. During the three-day celebration, children receive gifts or money from their parents and relatives.

Name That Tune
During the Kwanzaa feast of karamu, which falls on December 31, African Americans celebrate their culture with traditional songs and music. Throughout the Christmas season, many Christians rejoice by singing Christmas carols. Often, carolers walk from home to home, entertaining friends and neighbors with Christmas songs such as “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells.” During Hanukkah, each night after the menorah is lit, Jewish families sing songs that celebrate the miracle of Hanukkah.

Eat Up!
Many families top off their Winter Solstice celebrations with cake or pie decorated with an image of the sun. During Hanukkah, Jewish families enjoy foods fried in oil, including latkes, or potato pancakes, and sufganiot, or jelly donuts. After a hearty Christmas dinner, families often share fruitcake and pumpkin or mince pie. During Kwanzaa’s karamu feast, African-American families dine on traditional African food. After fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate Id -al-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast. The festival of feasting lasts for three days.