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Welcome to December

Posted on November 29, 2022

We’ve made it to the end of the year! In many ways, the last month of the year is the busiest month. Three major holidays are celebrated in December:

  • Hanukkah
  • Christmas
  • Kwanzaa


This year, Hanukkah begins on Sunday, December 18 at sundown. Hanukkah (also spelled “Chanukah”) is an eight-day winter “festival of lights” that begins each year on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Because the Hebrew calendar differs from the Gregorian calendar, Hanukkah may occur anytime from late November to late December.

The festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and of spirituality over materiality.  The central feature of the observance is the nightly lighting of the Chanukiah or menorah, an eight-branched candelabra.

Christmas Day

December 25 is Christmas Day. It is a Christian holiday that is also celebrated by non-religious people and those of different faiths as a cultural event. Christmas is a public holiday in most countries. One of the most popular Christmas customs is gift-giving.

Some Christians like the Puritans didn’t celebrate Christmas at all. In fact, Christmas was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. It did not become an official Massachusetts holiday until 1856. It became a US holiday in 1870.

It is a Massachusetts ‘blue laws’ holiday meaning that most businesses cannot open on that day without permission from the local chief of police.


December 26 to January 1 marks Kwanzaa, an annual celebration of African family and social values. Kwanzaa began in 1966. Although Kwanzaa is primarily an African American holiday, it is also celebrated outside the United States, including in countries where there are large numbers of descendants of Africans. From the beginning it has been viewed as a non-political and non-religious holiday.

Each of the days of the celebration is dedicated to one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.  On each day the family comes together to light one of the candles in the kinara, or candleholder, and to discuss the principle for the day.

Religious accommodations

Employees may request time off for religious-based reasons to celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas. According to Massachusetts law, an employee may seek accommodation from a company to practice his or her faith.

December Weeklong Observances

Before your company gets too wrapped up in any religious or cultural celebrations, don’t forget to remind your employees about National Handwashing Awareness Week and National Influenza Vaccination Week.  Both are observed during the week beginning December 5 this year.

Other December highlights:

December 21 is the Winter Solstice—the astronomical first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and first day of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. In terms of daylight, the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year.

December 26: also marks National Whiners Day, recognized since 1986. Oh, that whining could be constrained to just one day a year!

Happy New Year!