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By: Pauline Ho

When we think of holidays in December, we generally think of Christmas and Hanukkah but there are lots more. With the growing number of immigrants in North America and parts of Europe, there are an increasing number of different cultural occasions being celebrated this month.

Mawlid el-Nabi
Mawlid el-Nabi

December 1st  Mawlid el-Nabi – Islam

This is the day Muslims honour the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, who founded Islam. According to Interfaith Calendar, Shia and Sunni believers celebrate on separate days by reading the prophet’s teachings.

December 3-24th  Advent –  Christian and Catholic

Though Advent began with the first candle lit on December 3rd, the fasting starts midway through the month with only two weeks until Christmas for Christians and every Friday in the month of December for Catholics. Advent is celebrated by believers lighting special candles, hanging wreaths and attending church services.

December 6th  Saint Nicholas Day – Christian

Some Christians honour the birth of Saint Nicholas, commonly known as Santa Claus, the saint who serves as a role model for gift-giving.


December 8th  Bodhi Day (Rohatsu) – Buddhist 

On this day Buddhists recall that Siddhartha Gautama vowed to sit under a tree in what is now Bodhgaya, India, and not rise until he was enlightened.

December 8th  The Feast of Immaculate Conception – Christian, Catholic

Roman Catholics celebrate this day in honour of the Virgin Mary who was born without sin.

December 12th  Feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Christian, Catholic

Primarily celebrated by Catholics of Mexican descent, this holiday honours the reported appearance of the Virgin Mary in Mexico City to Juan Diego in the 16th century on a hillside outside of Mexico City.


December 13-20th  Hanukkah * – Jewish

This is the eight-day Jewish festival of lights, which celebrates the Maccabean revolt. Eight candles are lit with a menorah to honour the holiday.   It is a remembrance of an effort to restore the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after a period of desecration. Faithful Jews found only enough oil to light the temple lamp for one day, but the flame burned for eight.

December 16-24th: Posadas Navidenas – Christian

Nine days of religious observance mainly celebrated by people of Mexican descent beginning December 16th and ending December 24th with a re-enactment of  Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus.

December 21st  Solstice/Yule – Pagan/Wicca

Yule or winter solstice, is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere. Juul, a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia, featured fires lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. Pagans and Wiccan believers celebrate Yule to honour “the winter-born king, symbolized by the rebirth of the sun,” according to the Interfaith Calendar.

December 24th  Christmas Eve – Christian, Catholic

Roman Catholics and high church Anglicans traditionally celebrate Midnight Mass, which begins either at or sometime before midnight on Christmas Eve to commemorate the birth of Christ, which is believed to have occurred at night.

December 25th Christmas – Christian, Catholic

Christmas has been observed by Christians and Catholics since the Middle Ages as the birth of Jesus. Some Orthodox Christians follow a different calendar, and Christmas may fall on a different date.

December 26th Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathushtra) – Zoroastrian 

Zoroastrians honour the death of their prophet, Zarathustra, who founded Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions.  Tradition says he lived in what is now Iran in about 1200 BC. His teachings include the idea of one eternal God, seven powerful creations (sky, water, earth, plants, animals, humans and fire) and that life is a struggle between good and evil.

December 26th to January 1st Kwanzaa – African Disapora

Though not a religious holiday, Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that honours African heritage in African-North American culture culminating in a feast and gift-giving.  Kwanzaa has seven core principles (called Nguzo Saba). It was created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966–67.

December 28th  Holy Innocents – Christian

Christians commemorate the deaths of children killed by King Herod, who was attempting to kill baby Jesus and avoid the loss of his throne.  The babies who were massacred are considered martyrs for Christianity.

December 31st  Watch Night – Christian

Christians thank God for the safety they received during the year.

December 31st Holy Family – Catholic

Catholics honour Joseph, Mary and Jesus.