Explore other traditions celebrated this season.
You might hear "Jingle Bells" playing in every store you enter, but there's a lot more to winter than Christmas.
Yule, the ancient pagan holiday that inspired St. Nick's modern wonderland, is still celebrated on the winter solstice, which this year falls on Dec. 22 at 1:08 a.m. This, the shortest day and longest night of the year, is often heralded with rituals of candles and light or gatherings of family and friends, a large feast and gift-giving. It is traditional to adorn the home with evergreens as a natural symbol of rebirth and life and also to slaughter a boar. These traditions have transformed into modernity as the Christmas ham and the Christmas tree.
Kwanzaa is a week-long festival honoring African-American heritage. Mishumaa Saba are the seven candles that symbolize the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, responsibility, collective economics, purpose, creativity and faith. The candles are placed in a candle holder called a kinara, which is placed on a mkeka, or special mat that is laid upon a piece of African cloth. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, culminating in a feast and gift-giving.
The Jewish winter holiday Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights, also makes use of candles in a nine-pronged candelabrum called a menorah. Eight candles symbolize the eight days olive oil burned in the temple's eternal flame during the Maccabee rebellion when there was only enough oil for one day. The ninth candle, the shamas, or the servant candle, is used to light the others. Potato pancakes, or latkes, are fried or baked in olive oil, and small gifts are traditionally given for each of the eight days.