17 Celebrations during the final week of December

It’s the end of December but not the end of the holidays, feasts, and celebrations.

December 24

Christmas Eve

The evening or the entire day before Christmas is a time of many traditions and celebrations.  Many attend a special midnight service commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. Some fast this day and feast after the midnight service. Others exchange gifts on this day.

In many countries, the Christmas tree is brought into the house and decorated on this day. It is also traditionally the day the Yule log was lit. See more about the Yule log here

Learn more about the customs across the globe here.

In my home, we take time to listen to Christmas carols, nibble on some treats, read, and enjoy each other’s company.

 

December 25

Christmas Day 

This is one of my favorite holidays. It commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, son of God. Linus from Charlie Brown’s Christmas sums this event up very nicely.

Anastasia of Sirmium Feast Day 

Anastasia was a matron of a noble Roman family married to a pagan. Little is known about Anastasia. She was martyred in 284-305 when despite decrees from Diocletian, emperor of Rome, she stood up for her faith. Learn more about Anastasia of Sirmium here 

Twelvetide

Also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas (not the song), runs from December 25 through January 6th. Is a tradition that began in the Middle Ages as a pagan celebration. It evolved into a series of days of fast and prayer commemorating a different saint each day. Today there are many people who only know about it because of the song. When the Twelvetide is celebrated it is often a series of feast days celebrated with a gift each day and culminating on the twelfth night or the Epiphany. Learn more here

Malkh

Little is known about this ancient holiday. Historically the Vainakh people of the North Caucuses celebrated their primary deity, Deela Malkh, and the birth of the sun on this day. Learn more here or here

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti 

This day was a festival celebrated by the Romans. It is thought that this was a day celebrating “unconquered sun.”  More information can be found here or there.

Quaid-e-Azam‘s Day

Muhammad Ali Jinnah is to Pakistan as George Washington is the United States of America. His birthday, December 25, is a national holiday.  The national flag is on prominent display. Pakistani citizens visit his tomb, wreaths are laid at the mausoleum, and children often perform ceremonies. Read more about Jinnah and the national celebration here.

 

December 26

Saint Stephen’s Day 

Saint Stephen was a Christian deacon known for his service to the poor and mentioned in the book of Acts in the Bible. This day is dedicated to Stephen who was put to death in 36 AD after angering Jewish authorities by professing his faith. There’s more information about St. Stephen here and here.

Boxing Day

Originating in the United Kingdom, Boxing Day is the first week-day after Christmas-day. It is unclear historically what Boxing Day was at first. The celebration may have been a tradition of gratuities given to servants (who worked through Christmas) on their first day-off after Christmas. Or it may have been a tradition opening the alms box the day after Christmas to distribute the donations to the poor.

Today a “Christmas-box” is given with gratuities for services rendered. These gratuities were intended for service providers for which there was no direct payment (post-men, errand-boys, and tradespeople or servants of various kinds). Learn more at the factmonster or Wikipedia.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration honoring African heritage in the Americas. Created by Maulana Karenga (born Ronald McKinley Everett) in the mid-1960s to give Blacks an alternate holiday. See the official website for more information.

Saint John the Evangelist‘s Day

This feast day commemorates the author of the book of the Gospel of John.

 

December 28

Feast of the Holy Innocents’

A day to commemorate the boys slain by Herod the Great in his attempt to kill the baby Jesus. All boys two years of age and under were slain and are regarded by some as the first martyrs. Learn more here

I’m including the last day of December since it’s the only December day next week.

December 31 

New Years Eve

The last day of the year is celebrated with social gatherings with food, drink, and sometimes, fireworks.

Saint Sylvester’s Day

Pope Sylvester died in 335. Little is known about Sylvester though legend has it that link him with several miracles, or that he healed and baptized King Constantine, or that he killed a dragon. Find more about Pope Sylvester here

Watch Night

The first Watch Night service is believed to have been held in 1733 with the Moravians, a small Christian denomination from the area of present-day Czech Republic. It was a night to meditate or watch over one’s covenant with God. More about Watch Night and the false rumor around it can be found here

Hogmanay

The Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration may be derived from Norse and Gaelic observances. It usually lasts three to five days and includes concerts, street parties, fireworks, and special traditions. One of those traditions, First Foot, is the visiting your neighbor after the stroke of midnight bearing symbolic gifts (shortbread or black bun, a kind of fruit cake). See this website for four more traditions of Hogmanay. 

Omisoka

Omisoka is an important holiday for the people of Japan. They remove last year’s clutter and clean their homes top to bottom in preparation for the new year. Feasting with friends and family clears away food from the old year. At midnight the temple bell is struck 108 times and the faithful visit a shrine. More information can be found here.

This is the end of December and the end of my list. In the interest of space, I’ve missed a number of holidays. Please add yours in the comments below or tell me how you’ll be celebrating one of the days listed above.

Thank you so much for reading and following my blog in 2017.

Have a safe and happy holiday, whichever one you celebrate.

See you next year!

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