For many, winter break is synonymous with Christmas. However, there are several lesser-known holidays that happen in December.


What is Hanukkah?

“If I was explaining Hanukkah to someone who didn’t know much about it, I would describe it as the festival of lights,” said Amanda Schwartz, a Junior from Baltimore, Maryland.

The holiday celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after a revolt. According to the Talmud, a Jewish religious text, there was only enough oil to burn for a single day, but miraculously the candles burned for eight nights.

What are your family’s traditions?

“We celebrate Hanukkah for eight nights and the menorah holds eight candles for each of the eight nights. Additionally, we use the center and tallest candle holder, the shamash, to light all of the other candles. We light the candles in order from right to left just as we read the Torah from right to left,” said Schwartz.

“Additionally, we get one present on each night of Hanukkah. However, rumor has it that gift-giving did not occur until Christmas became commercialized.”

What are you looking forward to this year?

“I am looking forward to celebrating Hanukkah this year with my family and teaching my boyfriend the Hanukkah prayer. And, of course, my favorite Jewish tradition will always be food!” said Schwartz.



What is Yule?

Yule is an ancient celebration of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

It’s sort of like a New Year’s type celebration. It’s like the turning over of the year. It’s the shortest day, so the days get longer after that,” said Natalie Burdine, a Junior from Huntsville, Ala., whose family celebrates Yule each year.

“It’s about feeling connected to your family and your roots and also the world around you.”

For Burdine, the celebration isn’t Wiccan or anti-religious, it is just an older holiday.

“It’s just a tradition for us. Paganism just means pre-Christian, so it is a pre-Christian tradition. It’s something my mom picked up a long time ago, and she’s like spiritual. So we’ve been doing it forever, and plenty of people do it different ways,” said Burdine.

What are your family’s traditions?

Perhaps, the most common Yule tradition is burning a yule log.

“We burn a yule log, and we keep a piece from last year’s log and put it in this year’s log every year, so theoretically it’s like the same log forever, since I was born, or before I was born,” said Burdine.

Another tradition of Burdine’s family is four candles that represent the elements water, earth, fire and air and the four directions. Holding the candles, the family stands in their backyard at night. Her mom recites a poem, and then each member of the family has a turn to talk about what they achieve that year and their goals for the next year.

“It’s just about connection and sharing and remembering the past from your ancestors. Keeping the log every year is like keeping that with you, keeping all of those wishes and memories with you. It’s just a very open way to share what you want, what you’re scared of, the anxieties in your life, and your dreams for the future.”

What are you looking forward to this year?

After a hard semester, Burdine is looking forward to going home and being with her family.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing my family and feeling that connection,” said Burdine.

Burdine is also worried that the droughts and wildfire might mean that her family can not burn the yule log as they normally would.