Merry and Bright

December holidays explained

Alli Williams , co-editor in chief

Whether it’s a religious holiday, an end-of-year holiday or one simply just for fun, during the winter months it seems like everyone’s always celebrating.

Globally, more than 36 holidays are observed during December alone. This makes sense why people often opt to use the the all-encompassing, and sometimes controversial greeting, “Happy Holidays!” throughout winter.

Though most of us don’t know much about the winter holidays outside of Christmas and Hanukkah, each holiday is important and means something unique and different to people all around the world.

Here are six December holidays explained.


Bodhi Day

Dec. 8

The Buddhist holiday of Bodhi commemorates the day Buddha experienced enlightenment, which took place while he was meditating under a Bodhi tree in 596 BC. It is celebrated as a day of meditation and reflection of Buddha’s ideals of Nirvana. Many Buddhists also string colored lights around their homes to symbolize enlightenment, and eat a traditional meal of rice and milk.



Dec. 16-14

Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that lasts eight days and eight nights, translates to “dedication” in Hebrew. It celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Each night the holiday lasts, a candle is lit on the menorah. In addition, it is celebrated through making latkes and sufganiyot, playing the dreidel game and exchanging gifts each night.


Las Posadas

Dec. 16-24

Started in Spain, Las Posadas, meaning “the inns”, is celebrated mainly throughout Mexico, as well as in parts of the United States. It is a Christian holiday revolving around Mary and Joseph’s journey into Bethlehem. The celebration lasts nine days to honor the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus. Similar to caroling, observers of the holiday travel door-to-door in towns, reenacting the Biblical story, asking for a place to stay in people’s homes. One home is usually designated as the “inn.”


Pancha Ganapati

Dec. 21-25

Founded in 1985 as a celebration of the Hindu deity Lord Ganesha, Patron of Arts and Guardian of Culture, Pancha Ganapati is mostly celebrated in Western countries. It observing, a large image or statue of Lord Ganesha is placed at the center of the living room. Each day, the children decorate Ganesha in a different color, symbolizing a different power. Children are often given very meaningful gifts, and the whole family enjoys sweets, fruits and incense.



Dec. 25

As the most celebrated December holiday in America, this Christian holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus. This holiday is often celebrated by going to church, putting up a Christmas tree, exchanging gifts and singing carols. Though a religious holiday, according to, 81 percent of non-Christians in America celebrate Christmas.



Dec. 26- Jan. 1

Celebrated mostly in the United States and the Western African diaspora, Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration honoring African heritage, based off the end-of-year harvest festivals celebrated throughout Africa. The holiday began in 1966 and has seven main principles called Nguzo Saba which highlight Unity, Self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. It is observed by gift-giving and a large feast. Since it is not a religious holiday, many participants of Kwanzaa also celebrate Christmas.