By Telijah Patterson
Winter in the Northeast is closely associated with cold temperatures, school recesses, shopping sales, broken bank accounts, and Christmas celebrations. Ancient cultures across the globe revered the winter solstice, viewing this as a time of renewal and rebirth of the sun. Today, it is still a time for families to reunite and bond. However, housing two of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country, New York City and Jersey City, Christmas isn’t the only holiday that will be observed in the Northeast. Find out about a few of the other multicultural holidays taking place this winter:
Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Tuesday, December 12. Guadalupe is the most exalted saint in Mexico. She is known as the virgin who gave birth to Jesus. According to Catholic tradition, the Festival of the Lady of Guadalupe commemorates Guadalupe’s apparition appearing in St. Juan Diego in Mexico City where she requested a church be built on the Hill of Tepeyac. Today, the church is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites for Catholics. Following the command of Guadalupe, Juan Diego brought a tilma with roses from the hill back to the bishop whereupon opening it he saw the roses had been transformed into an image of the Virgin Mary in traditional Aztec garments. It is also believed that she spoke in Nahuatl, an Aztec language. This led to mass conversions numbering into the millions. This holiday is observed all across Mexico and in Mexican communities by attending special celebrations at church.
Kwanza. Tuesday December 26 – Monday, January 1. Kwanza a was founded in 1966 to reconnect African Americans to their ancestral roots and promote stronger family ties. It is Swahili for first fruits of the harvest. Kwanzaa is celebrated over a seven day period and each day is named after a different African principle referred to as the Nguzo Saba. The celebrations promote self- determination, collective work, and sharing. Music, food, dancing, and cultural education are signature features of this holiday.
Where to celebrate: The American Museum of Natural History will have its celebration on Saturday, December 30, 2017 from noon – 5pm in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life. Tickets are free for members or with museum admission.
Mawlid is the celebration of the Birthday of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. It is observed in all majority-Muslim nations and across various Islamic denominations with the exception of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The festivities include street parades, special home and mosque decorations, food, gift-giving, offering of prayers, and storytelling of the Prophet Muhammad.
Where to Celebrate: Join the New York Sufi Center at their main event on Sunday, December 3 from 4-8 pm for Sufi songs and Mawlid Celebrations at Church of Holy Apostles at 296 9th Ave, Manhattan, NY. For more information email: email@example.com.
Hanukkah, Tuesday. December 12 – Wednesday December 20. Known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday to commemorate the rededication of the holy temple. A popular feature of the festival is the nightly menorah lighting which is placed in front of windows and doorways. During the holiday fried foods are customarily eaten such as latkes, children play with dreidel, and cash gifts are given to encourage positive behavior in children.
Where to Celebrate: Kick off the first day of Hanukkah by observing the World’s Largest Menorah Lighting on Tuesday, December 12, at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn at 5:30 pm.
St. Nicholas Day, Wednesday, December 6. Often recognized as being the predecessor of Santa Claus, St. Nicholas day is a time of gift giving. It is mostly observed in Europe and in the United States, where there are strong German influences. Children are often rewarded with small presents such as candy for their good behavior. In some countries, children receive a gift under their pillow as they sleep at night and in others children may find gifts in their shoes.
Where to Celebrate: Partake in the Dutch holiday celebrations on Saturday, December 2 at the Philipse Manor Hall located at 29 Warburton Ave, Yonkers, NY 10701. There will be live music, storytelling, craft making, baked goods and refreshments. The event starts at 12:00 pm and admission is free.
Three Kings Day, Saturday, January 6. Also referred to as “The Feast of the Epiphany,” Three Kings Day marks the end of Christmas for many in Latin America. The celebration memorializes the arrival of the three kings, also known as the three magi or wise men who were led by a star in the sky to welcome baby Jesus. The kings brought gifts of gold and fine fragrance to the baby’s family. Celebrations vary across the globe, but gift-giving and family dinners are always included.
Where to Celebrate: The 41st annual El Museo del Barrio Three King’s Day Parade travels from 106th Street and Lexington Avenue to 115th Street and Third Avenue in New York City on Friday, January 5, 2018 at 11:30 am. Admission is free.
Dongzhi, Friday, December 22. Dongzhi is the celebration of the Winter solstice originally observed in China, but also extending to Korea, Taiwan, and Japan under varying names. Dongzhi means “extreme winter” and is a time for reflection and unity. It is a public holiday in Macau and held in high regard in China, Taiwan, and Korea.
Where to Celebrate: Although there are no official celebrations in the Northeast region for Dongzhi you can try the staple food of this holiday, called Tangyuan, a sweet glutinous rice ball at many Chinese bakeries. The best can be found at Sheng Wang at 27 Eldridge Street, New York, NY 10002.