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Eric Douglas sig

Christmas gets a lot of attention in December. It has long since moved from being just a religious holiday into a secular celebration as well that cuts across many segments of the world’s population.

While I am a Christian and do celebrate the holiday as the birth of Jesus, the secular aspects don’t bother me. Anything that helps everyone focus on helping their neighbors and giving of themselves is a good thing in my book.

Of course, the way Christmas itself is celebrated in the United States is somewhat different than observances in Europe or Australia or anywhere else. (Christmas in Australia falls in the middle of the summer there, so it often involves trips to the beach.)

But while Christmas may suck all the oxygen out of the room, there are other holidays in December. Hanukkah runs from Dec. 10-18 this year, so reach out and wish your Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah.

The short version of the holiday is the Maccabees were under siege in the temple in Israel. They had only enough specially prepared olive oil to light the menorah for one day. It would take eight days to prepare more oil, but that one day’s worth lasted the entire time.

Jews celebrate with family dinners and giving gifts each day, along with lighting a candle in a menorah, an eight-limbed candelabra.

As I understand it, Hanukkah is a relatively minor religious holiday, compared to Passover, for example, but it has grown in popularity because of its proximity to Christmas.

The day after Christmas, Dec. 26, is Boxing Day in the United Kingdom and Canada. Historically, the rich would give boxed gifts to their servants and servants would get the day off. As a kid, I always thought it was the day we boxed up the wrapping paper and trash from Christmas Day.

Dec. 26 is also the first day of Kwanzaa. That celebration runs through New Year’s Day.

Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday, first celebrated in 1966. It was created by Maulana Karenga, an American, as a way for African Americans to celebrate their roots and history. The name is translated as First Fruits, short for first fruits of the harvest.

Like a lot of things, Kwanzaa has changed over the years and is often celebrated by Christians as well as Christmas. The celebration lasts seven days, each one dedicated to a different principle: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. The final day is celebrated with a feast and gift giving.

Obviously, those holidays have different traditions, but pretty much the same rationale: family, love for each other and togetherness. Seems like something worth celebrating all month to me!

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com