(NC) December is a time when meaningful holidays are celebrated around the world—and that usually means an occasion for gift giving. Two of the world’s oldest religions—Christianity and Judaism—celebrate major holy days in December, Christmas and Hanukkah. In recent years, they have been joined by the secular Kwanzaa, a celebration of African culture and family values.
Not surprisingly, how you celebrate and what kind of gifts you choose depend largely on your family and where you live. Ethiopian Christians use the old Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on January 7 when mass can start as early as 4 a.m. and people attend dressed in white.
In the Netherlands, children open their Christmas presents on December 5, Sinterklaas, named after Saint Nicholas, the European gift-giving precursor to North America’s Santa Claus. Red bracelets are a popular Christmas gift for babies in Ecuador, while children in the Philippines receive money in red envelopes. It’s a Christmas holiday tradition in Guatemala for people to build a massive heap of trash, place an effigy of the devil on top and set it ablaze. In Finland, families take saunas on Christmas Eve while waiting for Saint Nick.
Gift giving has only relatively recently become a part of the eight-day, mid-December Hanukkah celebration, while Kwanzaa’s weeklong festival ends with present exchanges—hand-made preferred.
No matter how you celebrate, a meaningful gift that provides hope is a wonderful way to partake in the season’s spirit. If you’re looking for ethical gift ideas for all holiday traditions, you can find some unique selections online at Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope, www.plangifts.com.