Although most of us think of Christmas when we talk about the December holidays, there are eleven cultural and religious holidays celebrated worldwide this month. These holidays celebrated in some communities in Virginia and around the world include:
St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 5 or 6): The birthday of Saint Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus.
Immaculate Conception Day (Dec. 8): A Catholic celebration of the Virgin Mary, believed to be born without original sin.
Bodhi Day, or Rohatsu (Dec. 8): A Buddist tradition that honors the day in which the Buddha achieved enlightenment.
Hanukkah (sundown Dec. 7 -18 in 2023): The Jewish festival of lights.
Feast Day of Our Lady Guadalupe (Dec. 12): In honor of the patron saint of Mexico.
Yule (Dec. 21-Jan.1): Wiccans and neo-pagans celebrate the Winter Solstice, the shortest night of the year, and look forward to the return of light as days grow longer.
Christmas (Dec. 25): A Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Boxing Day (Dec. 26) A British tradition that occurs the day after Christmas
Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1): A cultural holiday honoring African-American heritage.
Zarathosht Diso (Dec. 26): Honoring the death of the Iranian prophet Zoroaster
New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31): The last day of the year, often celebrated by parties, festivals, and fireworks.
Virginia has a sizable immigrant population, with more than 12% of the Commonwealth’s population being foreign-born, making Virginia ethnically and culturally diverse. In an attempt to be more inclusive, some school systems in Virginia have started to adopt school calendars with more religious holidays.
For example, Fairfax County Public Schools' (FCPS) calendar has reflected the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Hindu holiday Diwali, and Orthodox Good Friday. Also, when the holidays Eid al-Fitr and the Lunar New Year fall on school days, they have been recognized with school closures. Another new school holiday is Veterans Day, when it falls on a school day. These changes have helped some communities in Virginia to positively recognize the growing diversity of Virginians, as well as be more inclusive and welcoming.
Principal Herman Mizell, of Langston Hughes Middle School in Reston, VA said it best when he sent a letter to his community saying in part:
Greetings to each of you and your extended families around the globe! We are so fortunate to be in a school community that blends many traditions and cultures. While events, words and decorations may be different, we can all find a common thread in our traditions among family, love, celebrations, and devotion to giving our students rich, robust, and meaningful learning experiences.
The entire team at 4 Public Education wishes the Happiest of Holidays to all in our community and beyond.