It’s the end of the year so it’s time to let our hair down, strap on the party hat and celebrate. As Noddy Holder bellows each year, “It’s Christmas!” Right? Well, yes and no…
December has long been a time filled with celebrations, particularly with it coming to the close of the year and long, dark nights inviting gatherings of friends and family. Unsurprisingly, most people will associate this festive season with Christmas and all of the pleasant rituals that go with it. However, there are a number of other holidays, traditions and celebrations taking place around this time.
Wherever you are traveling in December, at Flexicover Team we are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.
Hanukkah (27th November - 5th December)
Hanukkah (or Chanukkah) is one of the most important Jewish holidays. This eight day festival of light begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev. The story told chronicles a small group of Jews called Maccabees who recaptured Jerusalem from King Antiochus IV, who tried to make everyone worship the Greek gods. After the main Jewish temple was all but destroyed, the Maccabees went to work rebuilding it and wanted to rededicate it. They did this by lighting the lamp (menorah) which, for them, was a symbol of divine presence. However, only a small jar of oil was found, enough for just one day, but miraculously the lamp stayed alight for eight days. So Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting the shamash, the centre candle, and this is then used to light one candle each night, until the eighth day when all candles are lit.
Bodhi Day (8th December)
For Buddhists, Bodhi Day is a day of remembrance and meditation to mark the day, some 2,500 years ago, when Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha (or the enlightened one). According to legend, Siddhartha sat under a pippal tree (aka bodhi tree or sacred fig) and meditated to find the root of all suffering. Traditionally, homes are decorated with coloured lights and a ficus tree is adorned with beads to symbolize the way all things are connected. The lights are turned on each evening for the next 30 days and a candle is lit to symbolise enlightenment. Also, a meal of rice and milk is served on this holiday because it is believed that Sujata offered this to the Buddha upon his awakening to help him regain strength.
Saint Lucia's Day (13th December)
Also known as St Lucy’s Day, this is mainly celebrated in Scandinavia. St Lucy was one of the earliest Christian martyrs, killed because of her religious beliefs in 304CE. One common story told is that she would secretly bring food to the persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs under Rome whilst wearing candles on her head so she could use both her hands to carry. In reverence to this, in Sweden, the eldest daughter of a family will wake up before dawn on St. Lucy's Day, dress in a white gown (often with a red sash) and adorn her head with a wreath of greenery and lit candles. She then wakes the other members of the family and serves a simple breakfast such as a saffron bun (lussekatt) and ginger biscuits.
Pancha Ganapati (21st - 25th December)
Pancha Ganapati is a modern, five-day Hindu festival created in 1985 by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, founder of Hinduism Today magazine, to honour Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of culture and new beginnings. During the festival, a shrine is placed in the main living room, the focus of which is a statue of the deity. Each morning a tray of sweets, fruits and incense are placed as an offering and the children dress or decorate Ganesha in a different colour, each of which has a meaning. Plus gifts (usually of a symbolic or religious nature) are given to the children, who place them before the shrine to open only on the fifth day.
Winter Solstice (21st December)
In the northern hemisphere, the 21st December marks the first day of winter and the shortest day, when the sun is at its lowest point. The Winter Solstice is one of the world’s oldest celebrations and was celebrated in Britain long before Christianity arrived on these shores. Many customs are still followed today and some have been incorporated into Christian and secular celebrations of Christmas. The holly, the mistletoe and the Yule log are all linked to winter solstice celebrations. Druids would cut mistletoe from an oak tree with a golden sickle, then distribute sprigs among the people who hung them above doorways to protect them from storms and evil spirits. The Yule log was traditionally lit to conquer the darkness, banish evil spirits and bring luck for the coming year. Nowadays, many visitors from around the world gather at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain early in the morning to mark the Winter Solstice and see the sun rise above the stones.
hichever delicious festive treats you are lucky enough to have this year, we at Flexicover are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.