During the winter holidays of 2010, I was hard at work on a new challenge from the Millbrook editorial staff: to write one book a month for twelve months. Each of the titles was to focus on a different holiday, explaining its history and customs through the eyes of a young narrator.
It was huge fun to research the background and traditions of some of the world’s key holidays, except for one small problem: I spent a whole year in a state of holiday befuddlement! I was asked to write about the holidays in a particular order, which meant that in December 2010, while other people were buying Christmas trees or lighting Hanukkah candles, I was scaring myself silly with the spooky details of Halloween’s origins. I celebrated Cinco de Febrero 2011 instead of Cinco de Mayo. And I pondered the seven principles of Kwanzaa while sweating through August instead of shivering during December.
But I discovered a special gift in that year of “holi-daze”: I had the chance to learn that although they began for very different reasons, most holidays have grown to share important elements. They are vital opportunities for groups of people to remember who they are and where they come from. They are a time to value our families and our communities above other things. They are a chance to create memories that are so strong that the Internet is full of blog posts about the way that cherished childhood celebrations have shaped people’s lives.
No matter what particular holiday you observe this December, I encourage you to consider adding a new element to your own celebration: expand your horizons by learning about a different holiday tradition (perhaps by reading a book?). I can tell you from personal experience that exploring the wonderful variety of holiday traditions will make you cherish your own even more.