December 21st marks the first official day of winter – and the winter solstice – the longest night of the year. According to Rick Kline of the Spacecraft Planetary Imaging Facility at Cornell University, solstices and equinoxes denote either the beginnings of the seasons or the center points of them. Kline tells USA Today that Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holidays have arisen out of just these markings.
Whether you celebrate the season by sitting around the Christmas tree, sipping hot cocoa, listening to holiday music; lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel, eating latkes; illuminating the kinara, decorating with fruits and vegetables, wearing black, red, and green; or airing out grievances with an aluminum pole, we’re going to find out the origins of these traditions.
Herbert Berg, Director of International Studies, Professor of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Carolina Wilmington