December is chock full of holidays, celebrations, and reasons to get together and enjoy being with friends and family.
But not all of the holidays are about Christmas.
The College of William and Mary holds an annual Yule Log fire for students before their winter break featuring live holiday music and speeches about international holiday traditions, including Kwaanza, a weeklong African American cultural celebration that runs Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, and the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, which lasts eight nights and this year falls Dec. 12-20.
The Yule Log fire is set for Dec. 16. Faith-based student organizations at the college also typically host their own events for the holidays.
Temple Beth El synagogue has events planned for Hanukkah, and takes part in a Peninsula-wide celebration of the holiday at City Center at Oyster Point in Newport News. Several synagogues take turns lighting the candles of the menorah during the eight-day Hanukkah commemoration there.
Deanette Rogers enjoys celebrating Hanukkah with her family.
“Hanukkah is one of a number of holidays of the Jewish tradition that we celebrate,” she says. “It all started as a way to help our children understand that all Christians have Jewish roots since Jesus was Jewish. Hanukkah is such a great story because it is about the restoration of the temple and how God works miracles of all sizes.”
For Rogers, “The important part of the holiday for us is reading a book called Pearl's Eight Nights of Hanukkah. It has acted as a guide for the celebration since my kids were tiny. It tells the story, guides activities, reminds children to complete acts of kindness, and is just plain fun. My kids are 20 and 17 now, and we still enjoy it every night.”
Boxing Day, Dec. 26, is an extension of Christmas: tradespeople traditionally collected gift “boxes” as a thank you for good service throughout the year.
Winter Solstice — the shortest day of the year — is Dec. 21. Fittingly, that date is also set aside for Humbug Day, which gives people the opportunity to play “Scrooge” and vent their frustrations about the holiday season.
For those who don’t associate themselves with any particular holiday in December, you can commiserate on Dec. 23 during “Festivus,” a holiday popularized by the 1990s TV comedy Seinfeld that is “for the rest of us.” The CSz Richmond Theater in Richmond will pay homage to the holiday Dec. 7-9 with a production of the 2017 Improv Festivus.
As December winds down, families can ring in the New Year a little early on Dec. 31 with space-themed children’s activities from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the “Stellar Noon Year’s Eve” celebration at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News.
Then, you can put the holidays behind you for another year and start off January on the right foot by participating in the Hair of the DoG 5K Run and Kids Fun Run along Duke of Gloucester Street on New Year’s Day.