For Native Americans of the Zuni tribe in New Mexico, December marks the time of the Shalako Kochina Ceremony. For other aboriginal tribes, this is the season when the river freezes and the land sleeps, known as Luut’aa.
Friday, December 1
• Mawlid al-Nabi – Islam
The anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca in ca. 570 C.E., observed by Sunni Muslims beginning at sundown. Shi’a Muslims celebrate five days later, on December 6th.
Sunday, December 3
• First Sunday of Advent (hope) – Christianity (Western churches)
• Sanghamittā Day – Buddhism
Celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of King Asoka’s daughter Sanghamittā, who founded an order of nuns in Sri Lanka and carried with her a branch of the original tree under which the historical Buddha found enlightenment (it still survives in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura). This festival occurs on the full moon day in December.
Friday, December 8
• Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) – Buddhism
Celebration of the time when Prince Gautama (also later known as Shakyamuni Buddha) took his place under the Bodhi tree, vowing to remain there until he attained supreme enlightenment.
• Feast of the Immaculate Conception – Catholic Christianity
A Roman Catholic holiday celebrating the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was preserved from original sin for her entire life.
Sunday, December 10
• Human Rights Day
While not a religious festival, this day marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, including Article 18 which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
Sunday, December 10
• Second Sunday of Advent (peace) – Christianity (Western churches)
Monday, December 11
• Masá’il – Bahá’í
The beginning of the fifteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “questions.”
Tuesday, December 12
• Chanukah [Hanukkah] begins (through December 20) – Judaism
The Jewish Festival of Lights commemorates the Maccabean victory over Syrian-Greek oppressors and the recapture and re-dedication of the Jerusalem Temple in 165 B.C.E. Special readings and praise songs focus on liberty and freedom. The eight-candle Menorah is lit at sundown, and gifts are given.
• Feast Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe – Catholic Christianity
Friday, December 15
• Bill of Rights Day
While not a religious festival, this day marks the signing into law of the ten original amendments to the United States Constitution in 1791, including the First Amendment that protects citizens’ freedoms of speech and of religious expression.
Saturday, December 16
• Posadas Navideñas begins (through December 25) – Christianity (Western churches)
A Latino/Latina Christian feast of the Lodgings, commemorating the journey of Mary and Joseph toward Bethlehem in preparation for the birth of Jesus.
Sunday, December 17
• Third Sunday of Advent (joy) – Christianity (Western churches)
Thursday, December 21 Winter solstice
• Winter Feast – Native American spirituality
A time when Native Americans of the Woodland tribes share food with the spirits of winter.
• Yaldā – Zoroastrianism
The “night of birth” which marks the longest night of the year, after which days begin getting longer—thus symbolizing the victory of light and goodness over dark and evil. This festival is celebrated with storytelling, poetic readings, family reunions, and feasting.
• Yule – Wicca
A celebration symbolizing the rebirth of the sun by the Goddess. A present-day Wicca event that ritually marks the shedding of the dross of the past year and contemplating one’s future spiritual development.
• Tohji-Taisai [Grand Ceremony of the Winter Solstice] – Shintō
This day marks the end of the sun’s decline (the yin period) and the beginning of its growth (the yang period). In Japanese spirituality, the sun is expressive of Amaterasu Omikami, the sun goddess and guiding spirit of the Japanese people.
Saturday, December 23
• Birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Commemorating the birth of Joseph Smith, Jr., in 1805 C.E. in Vermont. He translated what became known as the Book of Mormon and became the first president of the LDS Church when it was founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York.
Sunday, December 24
• Fourth Sunday of Advent (love) – Christianity (Western churches)
• Christmas Eve – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. It is observed with worship, carols, candle lighting, manger scenes and festive meals.
Monday, December 25
• Christmas Day/Feast of the Nativity – Christianity (Western and Eastern churches)
Celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, observed by prayers, exchanging of gifts, and family parties.
Tuesday, December 26
• St. Stephen’s Day – Christianity
Remembrance of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
• Kwanzaa begins (through January 1) – African American heritage
A seven-day festival that celebrates values highly regarded by people of African American ancestry. The values include umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity), and imani (faith). Each of these principles, collectively known as the Nguzo Saba, is represented by a red or green candle, each of which is lit on successive days using a central black candle.
Tuesday, December 26
• Zaratosht Diso [Anniversary of the death of the prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster)] – Zoroastrianism
Estimates of when he lived vary from the sixth to the second millenium B.C.E., but this date memorializes the death of the prophet Zoroaster, whose hymns (gathas) are preserved in the Zoroastrian scriptures.
Thursday, December 28
• Holy Innocents’ Day – Christianity
A day of solemn memory for the male children of Bethlehem killed by King Herod in an attempt to destroy Jesus.
Saturday, December 30
• Sharaf – Bahá’í
The beginning of the sixteenth month of the Bahá’í year; its name means “honor.”
Sunday, December 31 New Year’s Eve
• Ghambar Maidyarem (through January 4) – Zoroastrianism
A celebration for the creation of animals, and a time for the equitable sharing of food with others.