December has always been a month of celebrations, even in ancient Roman times! Here is some more information on key events taking place this month all over the world:
Winter solstice, also known as midwinter, usually happens on 21 December and is the longest night of the year. The ancient Romans used to worship their most important gods, Saturn and Sol Invictus, around that date. Today, it is still celebrated in many cultures. In China, Japan, and Korea, people celebrate the Dongzhi Festival, during which they gather with their families to make and eat Tangyuan, a traditional dessert served in sweet syrup. Another winter solstice celebration is the Iranian Yalda Night, when people gather together to share a meal and read poetry. Traditional foods served on this occasion are nuts and fruit such as watermelon and pomegranate. Christmasis a holiday celebrated by Christian communities to honour the birth of Jesus. It is a popular holiday in which people exchange gifts with their family and friends, eat large amounts of food, and sing Christmas carols. Traditional food served at the family table varies. In the UK it is customary to have turkey for the main course and a special fruit pudding for dessert on Christmas Day.
Hanukkah is one of the most widely celebrated holidays within the Jewish community, and is also known as the Festival of Lights. A unique, nine-branched candelabrum called a hanukiah is traditionally lit at sunset each day of the eight-day holiday. It is customary to give children chocolate coins, sing traditional songs, and play games with a wooden top called a dreidel. Potato pancakes and jam-filled doughnuts called pontshkes are traditionally served at the table.
Kwanzaais a six-day pan-African cultural holiday when people of all faiths gather to honour their African heritage. Red, black, and green candles placed in a special candle holder (kinara) symbolise the seven principles of Kwanzaa, including unity, creativity, faith, and purpose. Families traditionally perform a candle-lighting ritual, read a text about African history, and on the final day, share a meal (karamu).