A time of enlightenment in Chicago

by Jacqueline Covey

For many religions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism and  Paganism, the end of the year marks a time of change, rebirth and renewal. “Almost every religion is celebrating a festival of light,” said Rabbi Seth Limmer of Chicago Sinai Congregation, “The year is getting darker—what do we want to do? Bring light into the world.” While lighted Christmas trees are a prominent and recognizable symbol of this special time, in a cultural melting pot like Chicago a host of other celebrations are taking place.


Dec. 26 – Jan. 1, 2020

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration of African heritage started in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karega in response to Christmas commercialism in the U.S. Meaning “first”  in Kiswahili, Kwanzaa signifies the welcoming of the first harvests into the home.  During this cultural holiday, rooms are often decorated with flags and each day, one of the seven candles on a kinara are lit. A feast takes place on the sixth day.  The DuSable Museum of African American History is hosting a Kwanzaa event  from 8-11 a.m. on Dec. 7 and 8 at 740 E. 56th Place.

Hannukkah, Chanukah

Dec. 22 – Dec. 30

Though this celebration is not the most  “major” of Jewish holidays, it is the “supremely fun” Festival of Lights. Generally,  it is observed in the home, according to Limmer. Families gather around the menorah, a multi-branched candelabrum, to light a stem each night. The holiday recognizes the rededication of the Temple after a small group of Jewish rebels were victorious over Seleucid armies looking to drive the culture of Israel to extinction. The Temple’s menorah is said  to have miraculously sustained itself until more oil could be prepared. It lasted eight days.  ere is no one way to celebrate  Hannukkah. Limmer said that house- holds each have their own traditions.   This time of the year is about “taking care of the world around us,” he said. “The teachings of Hannukkah are  the same teachings many others experience,” Limmer said. “We as individuals have a lot that we can do to make  (life) better for a lot of people.”

Winter Solstice

10:19 p.m. on Dec. 21

According to widely-recognized Pagan organization Circle Sanctuary, the winter solstice can be a time of celebration in some cultures.  The day, which varies from year to year, represents the start of the solar year. It celebrates light and the return of the sun. It is also known as Yule. Circle Sanctuary suggests placing holly, ivy and pine cones around the home, “especially in areas where socializing takes place.” Also, mistletoe should be  hung above a “major threshold and (left ) until next Yule as a charm for good luck throughout the year.”

Dhanu Sankranti and Makar Sankranti

Starts Dec. 16 and Jan. 15, 2020

Sankranti represent the change in the sun’s position and these are two of 12 Sankranti on the Hindu calendar. Dhanu Sankranti represents the ninth zodiac, Sagittarius. Nine represents  faith, humanity as well as faith in humanity. Makar Sankranti, closely tied  with kiteying, is a time to recognize the harvest season and celebrated the Sun God.  

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