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Kwanzaa display at Holidays of Light

Holidays of Light

Diwali

November 12, 2023

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is held on the darkest night of the Amavasya moon cycle to symbolize the victory of the light over darkness, good over evil and justice over injustice. Each year, Hindus and Sikhs observe Diwali during the lunar month of Kartika, which is October to November on the Western calendar.

To celebrate Diwali, people set off fireworks, hang strings of electric lanterns, and light earthen oil lamps called diyas. Families and friends exchange gifts of sweets and fruit as tokens of good wishes.

Hanukkah

December 7–15, 2023

Hanukkah celebrates the Jews’ victorious fight for religious freedom in 165 B.C. and a miracle that occurred during the Jerusalem Temple’s rededication. Priests found only one small flask of holy oil for rekindling the Temple lamp. Instead of burning for a single day, the oil miraculously lasted for eight.

To commemorate these events annually, Jews light a nine-branched candelabrum, called a menorah. This ritual gives the holiday its nickname—the Festival of Lights. Every evening for eight nights, Jewish families sing blessings and light a candle, adding one each night as the week passes.

Kwanzaa

December 26 – January 1

Kwanzaa, an annual celebration of African/African American history and culture, runs December 26–January 1, based on ancient harvest festivals derived from matunda ya kwanza, or "first fruits." Created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, the holiday highlights seven core (life Value) principles - Nguzo Saba (in the display). One of the Seven Candles is lit daily, starting with the Unity (Black) candle, then alternating red and green, reciting each principle until all candles are ablaze. On day seven, the Feast "Karamu" with food, music, dancing, singing, and gifts for the children, as a new cycle begin.

With the support of Rosetta Cash and the Kemetic Institute of Chicago.

Lunar New Year

February 10, 2024

Lunar New Year is a major holiday and fun-filled celebration across much of Asia. Also known as Spring Festival, the commemoration begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon, though not all countries observe all 15 days. The date changes from year to year on Western calendars, and takes place usually in January or February.

New year celebrations are called Tet in Vietnam, Seollal in Korea, Losar in Tibet, Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia, and Chunjie in China. Some Lunar New Year traditions are similar across countries, while others differ. One shared custom is to spotlessly clean one’s home prior to the new year to rid it of any residual bad luck. Families across Asia also reunite during this time.

Ramadan + Eid Al-Fitr

Ramadan: March 10 – April 8, 2024; Eid Al-Fitr: April 10–12, 2024

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and it is observed as a month of fasting and spiritual cleansing for Muslims. It commemorates the beginning of Islamic enlightenment, where the Prophet Mohammed received the revolution of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

On the next full moon, Muslims conclude the month of Ramadan with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the “Feast of breaking the fast.” On the first day, celebrants gather in mosques to pray and reaffirm their unity with all Muslims around the world.

Saint Lucia Day

December 13

Saint Lucia, whose name means “light,” holds a special significance for the Swedish people who must wait out the long, dark winters of Scandinavia. She symbolizes the returning daylight hours of spring and the spread of Christianity throughout Sweden.

The Swedish Christmas season opens with Saint Lucia Day on December 13. Early that morning the eldest daughter of the house dresses like the saint in a white robe with a wreath of candles on her head. She then wakes the household by singing the song “Saint Lucia,” and serves coffee and saffron buns to the family.

With support from Linnea South Suburban Swedish Women’s Club and Swedish Museum of Chicago.

Visakha Puja Day

May 23, 2024

Buddhists celebrate Visahka Puja Day to commemorate the awakening of Siddhartha Gautama – henceforth called Buddha (or “enlightened one”) – from the evils of ignorance, hatred, greed and selfish desire. In observance of Buddha’s newfound loving-kindness and compassion, his followers place his statue on an altar and then light candles and incense in prayer.

Buddhists celebrate Visakha Puja on the day of the full moon in the sixth lunar month of the year. This date commemorates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.

Winter Solstice

December 21, 2023

Winter Solstice marks the shortest period of daylight of the year in the northern hemisphere. Due to the tilt of the Earth, the Sun is at its lowest point on our horizon. This solar event on Winter Solstice marks the point at which the sun will grow stronger, and the daylight will increase in the proceeding days.

Almost every culture has some way of marking the Winter Solstice. Even the traditions of Christmas find origins in these ancient celebrations.