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Spreading the Riches of December

December 17, 1995

For most Southern Californians, December is a happy, spiritual month, a time marked by a wide range of vibrant celebrations growing out of the region's many ethnicities and religions. It brings the holy time of Christmas, Judaism's Hanukkah and the African American Kwanzaa.

In the nine days before Christmas, Latinos celebrate the age-old ritual of the Posada, in which the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is reenacted. One group of participants symbolically seeks lodging, singing outside a room. Another, portraying innkeepers, answers with verses from within the room, first rejecting the request and then complying, joyously, when it is realized that Mary and Joseph are among the pilgrims. The door is opened and all participants join for food, the breaking of the pinata and more singing.

Hanukkah begins at sundown on Dec. 17. This eight-day festival, also known as the Festival of Lights, celebrates the rededication of the temple at Jerusalem by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 BC. According to legend, only a small amount of consecrated oil was available for the perpetual lamp, yet miraculously it lasted for eight days. During Hanukkah, menorah candles are lighted each night. It is a time to celebrate with games, plays, gifts and meals.

Kwanzaa--"first fruits" in Swahili--is an African American holiday that starts Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 1. During this time, when "the edges of the years meet," the celebrants dress in traditional African clothing and gather in homes and community centers. They reflect on the past year and how to live prosperous, meaningful lives in the coming year. Unity, self- determination, responsibility and collective work, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith are the seven principles that correspond to each day of Kwanzaa. There is much music, dancing and poetry.

We hope that as peoples of all faiths and races celebrate this month, each group will invited members from others to join in. That way, the riches of December will spread throughout the greater community.

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