By Bev Franco, Chaplain at Casa de Mañana Retirement Community
South Africa's Day of Reconciliation (December 16th). This holiday began in 1944 to recognize the end of apartheid. Citizens celebrate with parades that honor Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa.
Mexicans celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th, which commemorates the appearance of the Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in Mexico City on December 9, 1531. At the Virgin's request, Juan gathered roses in his cloak and took them to the bishop. When the cloak was opened, the fabric bore a striking image of the Virgin. Nearly 500 years later, the cloak is still displayed in the church built upon the site of Juan Diego's vision.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, will occur this year on December 21st. On that day, the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. The word solstice comes from the latin solstitium, which means "the sun stands still," because of an optical illusion. Looking from the north, the sun seems to stop and reverse course!
Kwanzaa is a week-long holiday that begins on December 26th. Kwanzaa is the Swahili word for “first fruits,'' and was created in 1966 to honor the heritage of African Americans. Each night of the festival, a candle is lit to symbolize seven African principles, which include unity, self-determination, creativity and purpose.
And of course there is always Festivus on December 23rd "a holiday for the rest of us," invented on the television show Seinfeld. Festivus is commemorated by an unadorned aluminum pole (representing materialism), the airing of grievances, and comedic feats of strength.
Whatever your chosen way of celebration, may it be a joyful holiday!