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Christmas gets all the attention these days. Can we switch it up and learn a bit about other ways to celebrate the season?

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration rooted from a victory made over 2000 years ago. The Jewish triumph was over religious mistreatment from the Greek-Syrian oppressors during the Maccabean Revolt.

The history began when the Land of Israel was under the ruling of the Seleucid king of Syria known as Antiochus III. This ruler allowed the Jews in the land to continue their religious practices, but once when Antiochus IV Epiphanes came under ruling, Jewish religious practices were banned and Greek religious practices became forced.

Syrians used the sacred Jewish worshipping monument called the Second Temple to construct a temple for Zeus, the Greek God. Because of the lack of religious expression and sudden dictation, a revolt led by Jewish priest Mattathias and his five sons began.

This war lasted for three years until the Jews managed to drive the Syrians out of the land only to find the temple had enough oil to light the menorah for a single night. As a result, the menorah happened to burn for eight days, buying enough time to produce more oil.

This accomplishment is now celebrated as a holiday traditionally beginning on the 25th of Kislev, a month on the Jewish calendar, usually falling on November or December. This holiday is celebrated within eight days and each day is celebrated with lighting a menorah along with traditional foods, gifts, and games.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is traditionally a holiday rooted in African culture. This holiday was introduced by a professor in the 1960s, Dr. Karenga, in order to recognize African roots and thrive in culture. The holiday was intended for that reason only, but soon became a religious branch.

Kwanzaa is celebrated by lighting seven candles on a Kinara, each representing its own meaning. The center black candle holds the meaning of unity. The left side holds three red candles — these symbolize self determination, cooperative economics, and creativity. The three green candles symbolize collective work, purpose, and faith. When each candle is lit, the representation is discussed the night of the lighting. The lighting of the Kinara begins on the 26th of December.

Traditional songs are sung and sharing a meal is a must. In fact, in order to celebrate, people drink wine from the same cup as a representation of unity. Then the family pours out the wine as an honor to their ancestors.

Yule

Yule is a winter holiday celebrated by Wiccans and Pagans in order to acknowledge when the dark half of the year falls into the light half of the year also, known as Solstice Night.

Pagan and Wiccan ancestors celebrate this night in honor of the Oak King, the Sun King, and the Giver Of Life.

People in celebration of the Winter Solstice light bonfires and trees are wassailed. Children are then escorted to houses to sing carols and share food baskets. Apples and oranges in the baskets represent the sun, wheat stalks represent harvest ,and flour hold the meaning of triumph, light, and life.

The root of this celebration was the ceremonial Solstice log which is decorated with traditional seasoning. This log is then burned and left to smolder for 12 days, before being ceremonially put out. It is said that these customs and many more are used in the popular holiday, Christmas. Yule is a Pagan and Wiccan holiday that is mainly celebrated around the shift between summer and winter.