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County Corner: Holiday Celebrations 2022

Ronald G. Rios, director of the Middlesex County Board of Commissioners

It is that time of the year when we look forward to seeing family and friends. Whether it is in person or via Zoom, being with those we care about during the holidays always brings us peace, joy, and hope.

But it is also during the month of December that we start to think about the upcoming holiday season and most likely start to stress about how we can get everything done before the season arrives. Whether it is putting up decorations, buying real or artificial trees, purchasing gifts, or arranging for travel to visit family and friends, there always seems to be something on the to-do list. We also stress about all the safety precautions that are associated with preparing for the holidays.

Some years we spend all this time preparing and stressing for the holidays but not really enjoying them and realizing the true meaning of this season. Take time away from all the stress and preparations and stop a moment to think of what this time of year truly means to many of us.

There are many holidays celebrated in the month of December, such as Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s Eve.

During this month it would be interesting as a family to learn and understand about the history of the different holidays being celebrated.

A few facts about the well-known ones:

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday, referred to as the “Festival of Lights.” It is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which may fall anywhere between late November and early December. In 2022, Hanukkah begins on Sunday, Dec. 18 and concludes on Monday, Dec. 26. During this time for eight nights, families gather and say prayers and light candles in a nine-branched candelabra called a menorah. On each night of Hanukkah, Jewish families will light one candle on the candelabrum. One branch of the menorah is raised above the rest and that is the candle that one uses to light each of the other eight candles.

Christmas is celebrated on December 25. In the Christian religion, Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ. Some of the most popular Christmas traditions include decorating evergreen trees, exchanging gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning with family, and attending mass as a family. Christmas is a time to bring people together and a time of giving ― whether it is presents or the gifts of peace and love.

Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality. It is an annual holiday celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. Each day, families light a new candle on the kinara which is a candle holder. Three of the seven candles are red, representing the struggle; three of the candles are green, representing the land and hope for the future; and one of the candles is black, representing people of African descent. On the final day, a feast – called the karamu – is held.

By learning about the holiday traditions of all Americans ― including those holidays that fall in December ― we can more easily see the similarities between us.

There are other things we can do to enjoy the holidays. Check your town’s website for family events such as tree lightings, parades, or light shows. However you decide to celebrate the holiday season, enjoy this time of the year with your family and friends. We have persevered the last few years with COVID-19 and the economy. Take this time to enjoy your family and friends and life.

I hope that you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season.

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