Get the holiday season started with fun activities and some great opportunities to learn about familiar, and not-so-familiar, holiday traditions and history. Within many of the sites listed below are additional links with even more ideas to try.
In addition to learning about traditions join in the festivities with links to recipes, crafts, cards, and music that give added richness to the holidays!
Chanukah December 15
Chanukah commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over Syria that took place more than 2000 years ago. Called the “Festival of Lights,” Chanukah is an eight-day holiday celebrated by Jewish people around the world. This year Chanukah begins at sunset, December 15, and ends on December 23.
The Virtual Chanukah web site allows users to discover the customs of the holiday such as lighting the menorah, singing traditional songs, and making Chanukah recipes.
In addition to the traditional side, the Chanukah Time, Hanukkah Fun, and Torah Tots websites bring some fun to the holiday with screen savers, games, crafts, and puzzles designed for children. More fun sites include HanuKat and the Hanukkah for Children web sites with online stories, recipes and activities.
Winter Solstice December 21
Winter solstice designates the time of the year when the Sun changes its direction and begins to move toward the opposite hemisphere. It occurs around December 21 when the Sun is directly above the Tropic of Capricorn and marks the shortest day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice is the winter solstice to signal the beginning of winter.
The following sites are useful for learning about the solstice, the change of seasons, and the celebration of winter.
The Winter Solstice offers winter solstice quizzes, ancient myths about the winter solstice, and ideas for winter fun, while the Celebrate Winter! website from Education World provides more than a dozen activities for celebrating the Solstice.
Frosty Activities is a website for kids developed by kids! This site has activities, puzzles, and games all centered on winter fun and the Curing Cabin Fever website offers some great ideas for keeping kids engaged and busy during the holiday breaks and bad weather moments.
The Season’s Greetings & eCards allow you to share the holiday fun with friends and relatives. Winter is also a great time to cook up some warming recipes and enjoy time with the family. The Recipezaar site has more than 6,000 winter recipes to choose from, including soups, stews, gingerbread, and pies.
Christmas December 25
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and is a joyous and busy time for millions of Christians all over the world. Many of the holiday traditions and celebrations we observe today came from our European ancestors but over the years gift giving, feasting, and decorating have blended into the common customs associated with the holiday. However, not everyone celebrates Christmas on the same day or in the same way and this holiday season is a great time to learn about other cultures and traditions.
Both Around the World and Christmas Around the World provide an extensive list by country with links to information on how Christmas is celebrated in other parts of the world. On the other side the American Christmas page shares American holiday traditions sorted by decade from 1840 to 2000.
World Book’s Christmas website also has information on world Christmas customs plus has historical information on Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, and Christmas recipes and crafts. The Noel, Noel, Noel site offers a list of family-friendly activities such as crafts, stories, and games that the family can do together. The site also includes printable Christmas sheet music.
For a very traditional Christmas check out the Victorian Christmas website for holiday decorating and entertaining ideas with a Victorian twist.
For some holiday fun, check out the True Cost of the 12 Days of Christmas website to see the Christmas Price Index calculation of the cost of goods and services bought by the True Love in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” or get ready to watch Santa race around the world on Christmas Eve at NORAD Tracks Santa.
Kwanzaa December 26
Kwanzaa was developed to celebrate the African traditions of family, community and culture. Kwanzaa is based on the old African festival of the harvest of the first crops and begins on December 26 and ends on January 1.
The Official Kwanzaa Web Site comes from the founder of the celebration, Dr. Maulana Karenga and has extensive provides information about the history and festivities. From CNN comes the interactive Kwanzaa Page with Information and links about the holiday and Kwanzaa Land provides general information about Kwanzaa, educational activities, recipes and music.
Kwanzaa eCards offers a choice of greetings to send for the Kwanzaa season.
December is a wonderful time to celebrate! The winter season arrives and brings with it the calmness of a new snow, the excitement of festival lights, and a collection of holidays that offer the opportunity to learn about different cultures and celebrations around the world.
Before things get too chaotic, take the time this holiday season to learn the history of family traditions and perhaps incorporate some new ones into festivities. Discover the history and traditions of other holidays as well, which will make your own celebrations much more meaningful.