Grinnell Chamber

Winter Holidays

Our community is composed of people from all different backgrounds and religions. This effort is intended to raise awareness of the different winter holidays and cultural celebrations recognized between November 17 through December 31, 2023. We acknowledge there are many other holidays celebrated outside of this timeframe and we encourage you to learn more about them by visiting the Drake Community Library and doing research on your own. If there is a holiday in this timeframe you would like to see highlighted, corrections or adjustments you would like to see made please fill out the request form HERE or email


Hebrew for “Dedicated”

What is Hanukkah? 
Hanukkah (also called the Festival of Lights) is the Jewish celebration of the rededication of the Jerusalem temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in the 2nd Century BCE. The temple had been desecrated and was in need of restoration. According to tradition, although there was only enough oil to light the temple’s candelabrum (menorah) for one day, the oil was able to last for 8 days.

How it is celebrated?
Hanukkah is celebrated December 7th through the 15th in 2023. Each evening a candle of the menorah is lit from right to left with designated prayers and songs. Families may make traditional meals to share and play dreidel games to celebrate each night. 



Meaning Awakening or Enlightenment 

What is Bodhi Day?
Bodhi Day is a Buddhist celebration commemorating the day that Prince Siddhartha, Gautama Buddha, obtained enlightenment. It is celebrated on the eighth day of the twelfth month. Some communities affiliated with Japanese Buddhism celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8th. Others, such as Chinese Buddhist, will celebrate it next on January 18, following the lunar calendar. 

How it is celebrated?
Buddhist communities may hold services and ceremonies at temples or monasteries. Individuals may choose to meditate, attend services, or decorate a bodhi tree with different colored lights, representing the pathways to enlightenment. Many will observe a vegetarian diet to accumulate good merit.


Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year, and in the northern hemisphere this takes place around December 20-23, with the 21st and 22nd being the most common celebration days. Winter Solstice is celebrated by many different cultures across the world in a variety of ways. The Hopi Tribe located in Northern Arizona celebrates Soyal with its ceremonies and rituals that include purification dance and a gift exchange. Hopi welcomes the Kachinas, who are protective spirits from the local mountains. China celebrates the Winter Solstice with their “welcome of winter”, Dongzhi. People gather with friends and family over a meal and celebrate the year they have had. Yalda is celebrated by those of Persian descent; it marks the last day of the Persian month Azar. In ancient times families gathered together and ate special foods like nuts and pomegranates, many would stay awake all night to welcome the morning sun. Yule is historically celebrated by Norse and Scandinavian people, as a feast and celebration leading into the winter months. Communities would gather together and exchange gifts to help their neighbors get through the winter months. Yule is celebrated starting on December 21st through January 1st.


What is Christmas?
Christmas is celebrated by Christians as the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth who is seen as the Christ, the son of God in Christianity. Although the actual birthday of Jesus is unknown, the earliest record of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336 AD; this was also when the nativity scene was introduced as decor and remembrance of the events of his birth. While December 25th is recognized as Christmas by Roman Catholics and Protestants, Orthodox Christans will celebrate it on January 6th or 7th.  

How it is celebrated?
Many families will attend a church service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Families gather together, enjoy their favorite celebration meal and exchange gifts.


What is Kwanzaa?
Created in 1966 by Maulana Ron Karenga, Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday that celebrates history, values, family, community and culture. The ideas and concepts of Kwanzaa are expressed in the Swahili language, one of the most widely spoken languages in Africa. There are 7 core principles celebrated during Kwanzaa, one recognized each day of the celebration: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

How it is celebrated
During the week of Kwanzaa, December 26th through January 1st in 2023, families and communities come together to share a feast, to honor their ancestors and to celebrate African and African American culture. Each day they light a candle to highlight the principle of that day.


Additional Holidays:


Las Posadas

Celebrated December 16th through the 24th
Las Posadas is a Mexican holiday that takes place between December 16th and 24th, honoring the journey of Joseph and Mary as they made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The festival includes a small child dressed as an angel, leading a procession of children through town as they go to various homes, seeking lodging for Joseph and Mary. Each stop includes songs and scripture readings and ends with a Mass service and the children breaking open piñatas full of candy and toys.


Boxing Day

Celebrated December 26th
Celebrated primarily in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other British Commonwealth countries, Boxing Day takes place on December 26th. Traditionally a day off for workers and the day when their employers would give them a "Christmas box" or monetary gift, modern Boxing Day customs include sporting events such as full programs of top-tier international football leagues, shopping, and a holiday from work. In some countries, Boxing Day is celebrated as St. Stephen's Day, a religious holiday honoring the first Christian martyr.



Celebrated December 13th 
Lucia is primarily celebrated in Sweden. The date was chosen based on the Julian calendar, where the longest day of the year was December 12th or December 13th. It was believed that evil spirits entered communities on this night and to keep each other and their animals safe people stayed watch all night long. Over time it morphed into a night of celebration when people would travel farm to farm, sing a song and receive food and alcohol. At the turn of the 18th century, Christianity was now a main part of Swedish culture and the evening morphed again to better align with Christian principles. The day now consists of young children, handmaids and star boys, dressed in all white, with crowns of candles bringing sweet buns to their parents and others in their community. The idea is that the candles bring light and warmth to the cold winter nights. 

This project is made possible thanks to a grant from Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation

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