The holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are rooted in traditions, and all are a time for gift giving. Here’s an explanation of some of the major holiday traditions, and how they can be celebrated with jewelry and accessories.
Christians around the globe celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25. With so many iconic symbols of Christmas, one of the most popular is the Christmas tree. Some say its origin dates back to 11th century Europe when reenacting the story of Adam and Eve in “Paradise” plays was popular.
Some believe that the medieval custom of decorating Jesse trees with biblical images at Advent to prepare for the arrival of Christmas were the first true Christmas trees. Others say that the global tradition of the Christmas tree became popular in the 1840s when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who was German by birth, unveiled their beautifully adorned royal Christmas tree, popularizing the custom as we know it today.
If you love the tradition of the Christmas tree, you’ll find Christmas tree jewelry in many styles, shapes and colors, from sparkly crystal brooches to understated silver pendants.
Hanukkah, also known as “the festival of lights,” is celebrated for eight days and nights on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, which is November through December on the Gregorian calendar. The word Hanukkah, which means dedication, celebrates the victory of a small group of Jewish Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, and the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. When the holy temple’s menorah lamp was relit, there was only enough purified oil to burn for one day, but the menorah stayed lit for eight days, until more purified oil could be found. In remembrance, a candle is lit on a menorah each of the eight days of Hanukkah.
Another Hanukah tradition is the giving of chocolate gelt coins to children, in remembrance of the coins minted by the new independent Maccabee state. Children also play with dreidels. A dreidel is a spinning top with four square sides. On each side of the dreidel is a Hebrew letter. The four letters used outside of Israel are: Nun, Gimel, Hei, and Shin (NGHS), an acronym for Nes Gadol Haya Sham, meaning, “A great miracle happened there.” The letters of the dreidel can also be found on other traditional Hanukkah jewelry, which includes gold and silver pendants of the dreidel, menorah, Mezuzah scroll, Star of David, and evil eye.
Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday that celebrates African-American heritage, pride, community, and family. The seven-day festival begins on December 26, and is celebrated until New Year’s Day. The word Kwanzaa is derived from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” which means “first fruits,” and the holiday commemorates the first harvest celebrations practiced by various African cultures. Each day of Kwanzaa focuses on Nguzo Saba, or the seven principles that have sustained Africans. The seven principles are:
- Collective Work and Unity
- Cooperative Economics
The holiday was conceived by Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga, and was first celebrated on December 26, 1966. Inspired by the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and based on ancient African celebrations, Africans and African-Americans of all religious faiths and backgrounds celebrate Kwanzaa. More than 20 million people celebrate in the United States, Canada, England, the Caribbean and Africa.
There are many pieces of jewelry that celebrate Kwanzaa, including pendants and bracelets that represent each of the seven principles celebrated during the holiday. Many pieces are in the traditional African colors of green, red and black. Other symbols and images include the continent of Africa, and the Kwanzaa candle.