The holidays: Why am I out of school?

John M.

Staff Writer

Every year during the fourth week of November and the last two weeks of December schools do not have classes for holiday breaks. While most students might be hanging out with friends, traveling to a warm location, or sitting around at home dealing with their annoying family members, some people might wonder: why am I out of school? The answer would be the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day that occur through the periods of no school. There are many origins, celebrations, and traditions of the holidays in November and December.

The first holiday in this two month period is the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. The official holiday was first established in 1863 by United States President Abraham Lincoln, though most Americans know the story of the first Thanksgiving, which took place long before. The Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, received farming help from the nearby Wampanoag Indians, and in the fall they celebrated a vast harvest with a feast. Keeping with the tradition of this first feast, the high point of Thanksgiving is the extensive dinner, which often includes turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and for desert, pies. Many of these foods were in season for the pilgrims when they had their celebration; the origin of turkey as the primary meat is unknown, but turkey is commonly found throughout the U.S. and can be hunted easily, especially in November. Every year the President of the United States pardons a turkey prohibiting the cooking of the turkey. This goes back to John F. Kennedy in 1961 when he pardoned a turkey that was supposed to be cooked for his family. For many Americans, Thanksgiving is a time to be with family members; sophomore Jenna Brown says Thanksgiving means “being surrounded by family.” During Thanksgiving people give thanks for what they have and can optionally reach out to the less fortunate to help provide them with a Thanksgiving meal. A more recent tradition, which just started in the late 20th century and is often associated with Thanksgiving, is Black Friday. This is the day after Thanksgiving when stores offer mega deals. However, in 2012 more stores started to open on Thanksgiving Day, leading to people staying up late to get deals on gifts for Christmas.

In America Thanksgiving is a grand holiday; however, some Americans celebrate another famous holiday: Chanukah. Every year Jewish-Americans celebrate Chanukah or Hanukah, the Jewish festival of lights that commemorates the Hebrews’ defeat of the Greeks around 180 B.C. People light candles on a menorah and offer prayers. The menorah tradition comes from when the Hebrews went to light the candle and only had oil for one day; however, after eight days, the candle was still lit. This is where the eight candles come from. People give gifts during the eight day celebration and play games like spin the dreidel where the players get coins from a pot.

While only 3% of Americans celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukah, the majority of Americans have a celebration every  New happy holidays JMDecember 25th: Christmas. On this day, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. However, the Church of Christ does not celebrate Christmas on December 25th leading to discussion if December 25th is the right day to celebrate. No one knows when the first Christmas was celebrated, but history experts do know is when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion; Christmas was celebrated more openly, and some Pagan traditions were added to Christmas celebrations such as the Christmas tree, mistletoe, and the date December 25th, which was a day of celebrating the Roman gods like Apollo, Venus, Mars, Juno, and Jupiter. For many people, including young children, the highlight of Christmas is waiting for Santa Claus, a person who supposedly gives presents to the good kids of the world. This tradition comes from St. Nicholas who would bring children gifts, and it also comes from the Three Kings who brought the baby Jesus gifts. Many people in European countries will try to stay up all night and wait for Santa Claus to arrive. People decorate their houses with Christmas trees, lights, wreaths, and nativity scenes that resemble the Birth of Jesus.

Christmas comes only one week before the immense party that is New Year’s begins. Every year between December 31st and January 1st, people all over the world gather to celebrate the coming of the New Year. It is unclear when the holiday was first celebrated, but in the Roman Empire on January 1st of the Julian calendar, which was named for Julius Caesar, people in Rome would honor Caesar because they thought of him as a god. In 1582 the modern Gregorian calendar was created setting the current days and months, and the calendar is used by most Christian nations including the United States, Europe, South America, and the islands around Australia. On December 31st, or New Year’s Eve, people stay up until midnight and welcome the New Year. Millions of people all around the world celebrate the New Year with fireworks, parades, and other various celebrations. Brown said for her, New Year’s means “Having fun with family and friends and celebrating a new year.” Famous New Year’s celebrations include New York’s Times Square ball drop and in Georgia, Atlanta’s peach drop. Also, many cities drop strange objects like the Pineapple Drop in Honolulu, Hawaii, an onion in St. George, Bermuda, and a big chunk of cheese in Plymouth, Wisconsin. Many places host large firework displays going off at midnight; one of the most famous of these is in Sydney, Australia. January 1st is New Year’s Day and is a holiday all around the world; for many, this day is a new beginning or a fresh start. New Year’s is a time to celebrate and prepare for what comes in the next year.

In the United States there are three celebrated holidays around this time of year: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Thanksgiving is a day of thankfulness and family, Christmas is a Christian day of holiness, and New Year’s Day is a day of joyful celebrations. While there are more holidays during this time period, these are the three most celebrated in the United States and the reason why students get two weeks off at the end of December.

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