Winter Wonder and the Holidays

One of our favorite blogs was from a few years back and since we haven’t had a lot of time to post this year, we wanted to bring back some of the fun. 

No matter what you celebrate this time of year is always magical! The wonder of it all delights children (young and old) everywhere! During this time of the year we hear about the different traditions of the holidays but few know the meaning of them all, so we compiled a list of the most popular for you and we hope you will share with your family, friends and classrooms!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice!

Hanukkah

hanukkahHanukkah this year starts on December 24th, the eight-day festival of light, which celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, and of spirituality over materiality. We found this really fun story about the miracle of Eight Nights of Hanukkah we would love to share. If you’re Jewish or not it is a fun way to learn out about the tradition and share it with your children. The Story of Hanukkah

Also, if you are an “Elf on the Shelf” fan but you are Jewish, you will love “Mensch on the Bench”!  It was created by Neal Hoffman and the story goes a few years back that one day his son, Jacob saw the “Elf on the Shelf” and asked his dad if he could get one.  Hoffman jokingly replied, “Dude, we’re Jewish. You can’t have an elf on a shelf but you can have a menschen on a bench.”  On that day, Mosche, the mensch on the bench was born and is now available to delight all good Jewish children everywhere. Click here to find your own “Mensch on the Bench“.

Christmas
Santa
The following week is Christmas on December 25th and most of us already know or have heard the story of Christmas, but of course we found this cute video as told by the children of St Paul’s Church, Auckland, New Zealand to share with you. The Story of Christmas, Part I  It’s BRILLIANT! And to go along with it, The Story of Christmas, Part II  We hope you take the time and enjoy the fun!

Of course, Christmas also means Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, Kris Kringle and simply Santa! He is a figure with legendary, historical and folkloric origins, who is said to bring gifts to good children on December 24th, the night before Christmas. However, in some European countries children receive their presents on St. Nicholas’ Day, December 6th. To read the official story of good ole’ St. Nick, enjoy the story from the St. Nicholas Center, it’s intriguing!

Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa
Unlike Hanukkah or Christmas, Kwanzaa is not religious by nature and the celebration, which is only a few decades-old, is widely unknown by most Americans. Whereas Christmas focuses upon Jesus, the central figure of the Christian religion, Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the second century B.C. but Kwanzaa, celebrates a people. 

Kwanzaa, which comes from a Swahili phrase, “matunda ya Kwanza,” which means “first fruits”. This is a holiday that is predicated upon ethnicity. Kwanzaa was never about replacing Christmas or Hanukkah, but has its roots in traditions from ancient African festivals that were celebrated at the end of December and beginning in January. It is estimated by some to be celebrated by over 2-million Americans and about 28-million world-wide. Kwanzaa is celebrated for seven days to stress the Nguzo Saba, the Seven Principles and starts this year on December 26th through January 1st. This is to introduce and reaffirm communitarian values and practices that strengthen and celebrate family, community, and culture. For more about Kwanzaa, here is a link to the official website, Kwanzaa, A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture.

Winter Solstice
Officially, winter begins this year on Wednesday, December 21st at 10:44 UTC, which is the Winter Solstice here north of the equator. It is also the shortest day of the year for us, 9-hours and 32-minutes of daylight but the good news is that the days start to get longer starting on the next day!

For thousands of years it has been a significant day of celebration. Approximately around 3,200 BC in Ireland’s Boyne Valley, people constructed an ancient temple now known as Newgrange in Ireland. It was built 500-years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000-years before Stonehenge.  One of the first places to mark the Winter Solstice, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. It will last for 17-minutes and like in ancient times, people still today wait in the pitch-dark room for the illumination to occur on Winter Solstice.

Newgrange

We were lucky to visit one year and although not near the Winter Solstice, they did have a lighting to simulate the event. It was mind-blowing to think of the math and engineering feat that was done 5,000-years ago, to accomplish this event.

Pagans celebrated the solstice and it is still celebrated around the world in many places today. It was once celebrated at the Intihuatana Stone at Machu Picchu and in ancient Pakistan, the Kalash Kafir celebrated Chamos.  In Rome, the midwinter feast of Saturnalia fell at the time of the Winter Solstice and the Chinese celebrated Dongzhi to mark the time.  Christians saw some significance in the celebration of light and in rebirth, which was marked by the start of a new year and in Scandinavia, the Feast of Juul celebrated on Winter Solstice by lighting of fires, which symbolized the heat, light and life-giving properties of the sun. The word “Juul” is the source of the word “Yule”, which means Christmas as explained at TimeandDate.com.

Last but not least, we have to recommend you a few ASL signs for the Winter seasons for you to use.  As always, the best way to learn the sign is to go to our favorite ASL website, done in video at aslpro.

Winter Signs:

  • Winter
  • Cold
  • Idea
  • Work
  • Family
  • Year
  • New
  • Snow
  • Coat
  • Shoes
  • Pants
  • Mitten
  • Love (one our favorites)

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So to all of our friends, far and wide!
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Winter Solstice!
Still looking for more?  Try integrating ASL into your learning centers or story time. We have created lots of helpful resources for you. Visit one of our stores at Teachers Pay Teachers or Teacher’s Notebook.  We are having sales on all of our teacher sites starting on Thursday and running through this weekend too! Also, come join the fun and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.  

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