Continuing my exploration of the holidays and celebrations in December let’s look at 5 December celebrations held during the second week of the month.
Human Rights Day:
This year’s theme is dedicated to launching a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of the two International Covenants on Human Rights: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The two Covenants, together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights.
Read more about this at the United Nations’ website.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day: Celebrations often begin several days before the 12th. The celebrations include processions, Aztec religious dances, singing, food, and prayer. Bright reds, greens, and are the colors for this feast day. The events and the day honor the mother of Jesus, also called the Virgin Mary.
In the 16th Century, Saint Juan Diego saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary who told him to build a church on the site where she appeared (in Mexico City, Mexico). He relayed this request to the bishop who requested proof that the apparition existed. The Virgin asked Juan Diego to gather roses on the hillside (neither native to the area or in season) and take some to the bishop. So Juan Diego wrapped the flowers in his cloak and took them to the bishop. When Juan Diego opened his cloak, it had an image of the Virgin on it. Check out the link to learn more about the image and the miracles attributed to Juan Diego.
In 1945 Pope Pius XII passed the decree that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of all the Americas.
More on Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe can be found here.
Saint Lucia Day:
On the feast day, schools close around noon. Families celebrate in their homes by having their eldest daughter dress in a white robe or gown with a candlelit wreath on her head. She serves the family (and guests throughout the month) treats. Traditional treats include coffee, mulled wine, baked goods, and ginger biscuits.
The festival begins with the selection of a young girl represent St. Lucia. Girls are selected for local and national processions.
The St. Lucia designee leads a procession of young girls dressed in white with lighted wreaths on their heads. Also in the procession are young boys in white clothing, tall paper cone hats, and carrying stars on sticks. They sing traditional songs.
You can find more information about this holiday here.
Zamenhof Day AKA Esperanto Day: On this day Esperantists remember the birthday of Ludwig Zamenhof, inventor of Esperanto. He presented the first version of an international language to friends attending his birthday party in 1878. He was 19 years old. By 1887 he published his international language in a book, giving birth to what is called Esperanto.
Esperantists celebrate the day by buying a new book in Esperanto, reading poetry, or in some way honoring Esperanto literature. Read more about this on Wikipedia.
Spain, Mexico, and Guatemala celebrate Las Posadas. It begins on the 16th and runs until the 24th of December. The tradition commemorates Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Each of the nine days represents a month of Mary’s pregnancy.
Each community selects a couple to represent Mary and Joseph. Nine different families agree to house the travelers for one of the nights.
At dusk, a procession of the faithful takes to the streets. Children often dress as angels and shepherds. Religious figures, images, and lighted candles also are part of the procession. The representatives of the Holy Family stand outside local houses singing songs and asking for lodging. House after house refuses them lodging until they arrive at the designated house. Finally, they get permission to enter. They share prayers, food, and festival songs. Finally, activities end with a piñata in the shape of a star.
And so it continues each night with a different house as the chosen Posadas (Spanish for lodgings or accommodations) culminating in a midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
Read more about Las Posadas traditions here.