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The Holidays: From Creation to Commercialization
by Mel March 15th 2010, 10:57 AM

Article featured in Avatar - Volume 3, Issue 6 (December 2009).

The Holidays: From Creation to Commercialization
By Katrina

It's that time again! In 2009, the holidays are a time of waking up at wee hours of the morning to go shopped for loved ones, a time of resting from school or work and drinking eggnog or hot chocolate, a time of painting your nose red and dressing up like a reindeer to go door to door and collect donations for the Salvation Army, and a time of the sheer smiles that holiday music can bring.

In grade school, we all learned about the holidays--Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa (to name just three)--that we celebrated ourselves. However, did we ever once look at the histories of holidays we personally may not celebrate, but those that many others around the world hold very close to their hearts? In this article, we will examine the three aforementioned holidays, the histories of these holidays, and how they became what they are today.

Christmas: Many believe that Christmas originates altogether with the birth of Christ approximately 2,000 years ago. Contrary to popular belief, however, many of our current Christmas traditions started over 4,000 years ago--that's 2,000 years before Christ was even born! The Mesopotamian people, one of the earliest groups on Earth, had many Gods. Their main God, the king Marduk, was believed to fight the evil element of chaos each New Year. To aide him in this, the Mesopotamian people would hold a twelve day festival to bless Marduk as well as bring in the New Year, which, you guessed it, is where our current "The Twelve Days of Christmas" popular holiday song originated.

Although many other cultures had similar celebrations, the Mesopotamian festival is the earliest holiday-style celebration documented. Years later, when Christ was born, the exact date of birth cannot be pinpointed, so in 350AD, Julius I, the current Bishop of Rome, named December twenty-fifth the date of Christ's birth--Christmas.

Hanukkah: Hanukkah is another December holiday that originated with a group of early people--the Maccabees. Many years ago this group, under the rule of King Antiochus of Syria, fought against their leader (Antiochus) as he attempted to pull them away from their religion to worship his own gods. The Maccabees won and wanted to reestablish their religion in the Temple of Jerusalem. With one very small jug of oil (only enough for one day, and the only one they could find), they lit up the temple, and the oil stayed lit for eight days, giving us the eight days of our current Hanukkah celebration.

Kwanzaa: A holiday developed thousands of years after Hanukkah and Christmas, Kwanzaa was only recently developed by Dr. Maulana Karenga in the 1960s. This holiday is actually not political or religious, and does not actually substitute for Christmas or Hanukkah or any other religious holiday. In fact, many people celebrating Kwanzaa also celebrate another religious holiday. Kwanzaa, which was developed after Dr. Karenga became incredibly inspired by the racial struggles of the '60s, is based on seven principles: Umoja, Kujichagulia, Ujima, Ujamaa, Nia, Kuumba, and Imani. Each of these represents a value of this holiday including self determination, the importance of friends and family, work and responsibility, cooperation, purpose, creativity, and faith. Though this holiday was just recently founded, over eighteen million people across the world celebrate Kwanzaa today.

Today, we often forget the core values and purpose of these holidays.

Stores across the globe have holiday sales before November is even over! They set out Christmas lists and we, as consumers, are sucked into this commercial holiday world. Even in a declining economy, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons all set out to buy gifts for each other and themselves. Among all the chaos, just try to remember, though it may be cliché, the less fortunate. Spend a day or two volunteering and giving back to the world what the world has given to you. Most importantly, spend this holiday season with family, friends, and others that you love, and never get too wrapped up in the commercialization of it all.


Last edited by Mel; April 5th 2010 at 08:23 AM.
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