The final month of 2023 is almost upon us, and your workplace might well be counting down to a festive party. But, before you deck all your computers with tinsel and send out emails about the office Secret Santa, remember that not everyone will be celebrating Christmas at this time of year.
In fact, there are more people in the UK who are not Christians now than there are people who follow the Christian faith. According to the 2021 census, 46% of people in England and Wales identify as Christian, making it the largest faith group, but not a majority. So rather than pushing everyone to celebrate a particular event this winter, let’s make space for all faiths and those with none at all. After all, it just gives us more opportunities for a party!
Here are some of the other major religious and cultural events taking place in December:
6th December – St Nicholas’ Day (Christian)
In certain European countries (including Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and Hungary), Santa Claus (or Sinterklaas, Saint Nicolas, Mikołaj, Mikulás or however he might be known in the region) doesn’t visit children on 24th December, he comes on 6th December. This is the feast day of St Nicholas, patron saint of children, known for his secret gift giving, and perhaps the man in the red fur hat himself.
7th – 15th December – Hanukkah (Jewish)
Hanukkah (or Chanukkah) begins on sunset of 7th December and lasts until nightfall on 15th. It commemorates the recapture and rededication of the Temple in Jersualem from occupying forces in 165 BCE. According to the Talmud, when the Temple was recaptured, only enough oil remained to light the menorah for one day – but, miraculously, the flame kept burning for eight days, allowing time to complete the rededication ceremony and replenish the supply of oil. This is why Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights.
8th December – Bodhi Day (Buddhist)
Before he was known as the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama was a prince who gave up his life of luxury to seek peace of mind. He sat beneath a bodhi tree, vowing to remain in meditation until he had found answers. Bodhi Day commemorates the day in 596 BCE that he achieved enlightenment and became Buddha, “the one who is awake”.
16th December – Dhanu Sankranti (Hindu)
Sankranti days mark the sun’s transition into a new zodiac, and Dhanu Sankranti celebrates the transition from Scorpio to Sagittarius, or Dhanu Rashi. It is also a day to celebrate the sun god.
22nd December – Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday (Sikh)
Guru Gobind Singh was the tenth Sikh guru, and is credited with enshrining the Guru Granth Sahib as the primary scripture of Sikhism and for introducing the five articles of faith that Khalsa Sikhs should wear at all times.
22nd December – Winter Solstice (Pagan / Wicca / spiritual)
The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, when one of the Earth’s poles is furthest from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this will take place on 22nd December 2023. (In the southern hemisphere, this will be the time of the summer solstice, when the Earth is closest to the sun.) The winter solstice is traditionally associated with renewal and rebirth, celebrating the return of the light, as, from here on in, the days will begin getting gradually longer until the longest day of the year at the summer solstice.
22nd December – Gita Jayanti (Hindu)
Also known as Gita Mahotsav, Mokshada Ekadashi or Matsya Dvadashi, this marks the birth of the most important sacred text for Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita. These philosophical teachings were spoken by Lord Krishna to his friend, Prince Arjuna, when he refused to fight against his cousins at the battle of Kurukshetra, and explains the concepts of Karma and Dharma.
22nd December – Asarah B’Tevet (Jewish)
This a period of fasting from sunrise to nightfall, which mourns the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia, which ultimately culminated in the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people.
25th December – Christmas (Christian)
Although no one knows when the historical Jesus was born, 25th December was chosen to mark his birthday due to its proximity to the winter solstice and the celebration of light returning, as Jesus is known to Christians as the Light of the World. It is traditionally a day for feasting and exchanging gifts.
Are you marking any other celebrations this December? How are you creating spaces for everyone to be included in the party? We’d love to hear from you about your winter festivities on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook.