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Posted on: November 7, 2022

Township Holidays

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The Holidays We Celebrate

Among the most ethnically diverse townships in the state and country, Niles Township further distinguishes itself by celebrating that diversity and creating a respectful and welcoming home to all.

Many Niles Township residents come from places all over the world, bringing with them rich traditions and celebrating holidays of great importance to them. We celebrate along with our neighbors, sharing the meaning of holidays observed in Niles Township.

What Is Saint Nicholas Day?

December 6


Saint Nicholas Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Nicholas, is observed Dec. 5 or Dec. 6 in Western Christian countries, Dec. 19 in Eastern Christian countries using the old church Calendar. In this country, make sure to have your shoes ready for display!

The holiday marks the feast day of Nicholas of Myra with focus on his reputation as a bringer of gifts. In Germany and Poland, boys have traditionally dressed as bishops and begged alms for the poor. In Poland, children wait for St. Nicholas to come and to put a present under their pillows provided that the children were good during the year. 

Children who behaved badly may expect to find a twig or a piece of coal under their pillows. In the Netherlands, Dutch children put out a shoe filled with hay and a carrot for Saint Nicholas' horse. On Saint Nicholas Day, gifts are tagged with personal humorous rhymes written by the sender. In the United States, one custom associated with Saint Nicholas Day is children leaving their shoes in the foyer on Saint Nicholas Eve in hope that Saint Nicholas will place some coins on the soles.

What Is Bodhi Day?

December 8


Bodhi Day is a Buddist holiday commemorating the date historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (Shakyamuni,) experienced enlightenment through meditation. Each year on Dec. 8, Buddhists celebrate this important day. The word “Bodhi” means awakening or enlightenment.

The founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama, is popularly known as the Buddha. Siddhartha, once an Indian Prince, eventually abandoned his life of luxury for a much simpler one. Many believe that Siddhartha resolved to sit underneath a Bodhi tree and meditate until he found the root of suffering and how to free himself from it.

It took 49 days of unbroken meditation. After becoming enlightened and experiencing Nirvana, Siddhartha became a Buddha, or “Awakened One.” For 2,500 years, Buddha’s enlightenment has served as the central tenant of the Buddhist faith.

The Bodhi tree grows near the banks of the Falgu River in Gaya, India. Also located there is a Buddhist temple. Buddhists consider it their most sacred site of pilgrimage.

What Is Santa Lucia Day

December 13


Santa Lucia Day, or St. Lucy’s Day, is celebrated on or around Dec. 13. Unlike other less-well-known feast days that appear in the December calendar, St. Lucia Day has made its way to church basements and fellowship halls of Lutheran and Covenant churches all over the United States.

Sources say St. Lucy was a young Italian woman martyred around AD 310. She was engaged to a man who turned her over to the Roman authorities when she refused to compromise her faith or her virginity before their wedding.

The Romans threatened to force her into prostitution unless she renounced her faith, but she refused. When the authorities tried to physically move her, they couldn’t. They tried to stack wood at her feet and burn her, but the flames had no effect. Finally, a soldier ran a spear through Lucy’s throat to make her stop her proclamations of faith, but this, too, failed to kill her. At last, Lucy was given last rites, and only then did she die.

Today, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Italy, and a handful of Slavic countries still celebrate St. Lucia’s Day. With the exception of Denmark, most Scandinavian countries treat the holiday as a secular event, with local city governments and schools electing official “Lucias” who visit shopping malls, walk in parades, and hand out treats to children and senior citizens. In Italy, Lucy rides on a donkey and brings gifts to good children during the night.

In the United States, the main event is the Lucia procession, usually held at a church on the Saturday or Sunday closest to Dec. 13. The processional now features an older girl—the chosen Lucia — dressed in her white gown, red sash, and crown of candles — leading a processional of girls of all ages who then serve coffee and St. Lucia buns (a sweet roll made with saffron) to the other women of the church. They sing a Lucia song that describes the light overcoming the darkness.

What Is Hanukkah?

December 18


Known as the Festival of Lights or the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Maccabean revolt against the Syrian-Greek army. The holiday takes place for eight nights and days, commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple.

In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of mitzvah observance and belief in God. Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God.

When they sought to light the Temple's Menorah (the seven-branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Hanukkah.

The most common tradition of Hanukkah is the lighting of a commemorative menorah. Many families of the Jewish faith will commonly have these in their home, while Jewish organizations and communities as a whole may have larger menorahs displayed in public organizations. Many families will give out presents during Hanukkah, usually with one given each night of the holiday.

What Is Yule?

December 21


Also known as Jul, Yule is observed on the arrival of the Winter Solstice and predates the Christmas holiday by thousands of years.

Yule celebrations included bonfires, decorating with holly, mistletoe and the boughs of evergreen trees, ritual sacrifices, feasts, and gift-giving. Yule was a traditional Germanic Winter festival that celebrated the Winter Solstice and Yuletide (also known as the Yule Time or the Yule Season).

If some of this sounds familiar, that’s because many of the traditions that have become part of Christmastime were borrowed from Yule traditions of old. Whether they are from myths, feasts, folklore, ancient beliefs, oral stories told, or festivals, they have been woven into the fabric of our modern-day customs.

Some of those traditions include lighting trees, giving gifts, and hanging up holly and/or mistletoe. Although there was a point in time when Yule seemed to have been totally absorbed by Christmas, modern neopagans and Wiccans have resurrected the holiday. It’s now a holiday that seems to be growing in popularity every year.

A pagan holiday, Yule goes back thousands of years when it was celebrated by the Germanic peoples of Germany and Scandinavia. The word Yule is the modern version of the Old English words of ġēol or ġēohol. The time before the Yule Festival was known as ǣrra ġēola and the time after was called æftera ġēola. It’s believed that Yuletide was celebrated for a period of about 12-days — hence the 12 Days of Christmas.

What Is Christmas?

December 25


Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the son of God. Christians and many non-Christians alike celebrate Christmas, which is both a sacred religious holiday and a global cultural holiday.

The actual date of Jesus’ birth is unknown. Christmas was picked simply due to its correspondence with the winter solstice in the Roman calendar. The Bible does not mention the date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25.

It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century.

Christmas is celebrated in various countries as a cultural as opposed to a religious event. There are multiple ways to mark the occasion, including leaving gifts for Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Many people also attend Church services on Christmas day, with some opting to go on an all-out vacation.

Exactly how old is Santa Claus? According to “Email Santa,” Santa Claus is 1,751 years old as of 2022.

What Is Kwanzaa?

December 26


An African-American celebration of life, Kwanzaa was first introduced to the United States in 1966.

Five common sets of values guide activities during the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration. The seven principles (Nguzo Saba) of Kwanzaa emphasize  Kiswahili words: unity (Umoja), self-determination (Kujichagulia); collective work and responsibility (Ujima); cooperative economics (Ujamaa); purpose (Nia); creativity (Kuumba); and faith (Imani).

Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration held in the United States to honor African heritage in African-American culture. The holiday is observed from Dec. 26 to January 1, and culminates in gift giving and a big feast.

The holiday is relatively new compared to other holidays celebrated in this country. Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Africana Studies at California State University, first created Kwanzaa 55 years ago as a response to the Watts Riots in Los Angeles in 1965 and as a way to bring African-Americans together as a community.

Dr. Karenga researched African harvest celebrations and combined aspects of several different celebrations, such as those of the Ashanti and those of the Zulu, to form the foundation of Kwanzaa. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase matunda ya kwanza which means first fruits, or harvest, in Swahili. Celebrations often include singing and dancing, storytelling, poetry reading, African drumming, and feasting.

What Is Boxing Day?

December 26


Boxing Day, celebrated annually Dec. 26 (Monday this year), is recognized in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. Most offices are closed on this day when the day does not fall on a weekend.

A centuries’ old day of gift-giving, Boxing Day originated in Britain. It was a custom on that day for tradesmen to collect their "Christmas boxes," gifts of money or goods in return for reliable service all year. It emerged because servants, who would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, were allowed to visit their families the next day. Employers would give them boxes to take home containing gifts, bonuses and, sometimes, leftover food.

One of the earliest records of these box gifts dates back to 1663. In an entry in his diary, English Parliamentarian Samuel Pepys writes that he sent a coach and messenger to his shoemaker to deliver “something to the boys’ box against Christmas” in addition to funds to cover his bill.

Later, during the Victorian era (1837–1901, the period of Queen Victoria’s reign), Boxing Day evolved even more. It became an occasion for church parishioners to deposit donations into a box that was put out by the clergyman. The money in the boxes was given to the poor.


What Is Ōmisoka?

December 31

 

New Year’s Eve in Japan is known as ōmisoka. In the last moments of Dec. 31, temple bells ring out across the nation to signal the end of one year and the start of the next.

 At each temple, the bells sound 108 times in a Buddhist ritual called _joya no kane_that represents the cleansing of 108 worldly passions. The very last ring comes in the New Year, accompanied by a wish that those who listen will not be plagued by their passions in the year ahead. Although monks usually perform this duty, at some locations, ordinary temple-goers are allowed to ring the bells.

In the early morning of Jan. 1, people may also visit shrines or temples in the custom of hatsumōde, the first visit of the year. The most popular sacred sites can receive more than 3 million visitors during the first three days of the year, and the early hours of Jan. 1 are particularly busy, so special train services are made available.

People tend to be very busy on Ōmisoka to prepare for the new year, and New Year's Day in particular. Many even do a thorough house cleaning, an exercise much like the annual spring cleaning that people in most colder climates do.






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