Come December each year, people of different faiths and cultures celebrate the winter holidays in many different ways. Let's take a look at three holidays to see how they're different…and what they have in common.
According to tradition, the Maccabees only had enough holy oil to light the eternal flame for one night when they entered the temple. Miraculously, that small bit of oil burned for eight days — the exact amount of time it took to press and consecrate more oil.
Kwanzaa means "first fruits" in Swahili, and the holiday focuses on seven principles: unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. There are seven Kwanzaa symbols: a straw mat (called a “mkeka"), a candleholder, seven candles, a unity cup, crops, corn, and gifts.
The kinara, a candleholder that sits on top of the mkeka, holds seven candles: three red candles on the right (representing the struggles of the past and present), three green candles on the left (representing a hopeful future), and one black candle in the middle (representing the skin color of people of African descent). The seven candles also represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
The black candle is lit on the first night. Each subsequent night of Kwanzaa, one of the other candles is lit, alternating from left to right. On the final night, all seven candles are lit, and children receive gifts.