Do You Want A Piece Of My Ear?
Happy Holidays from the HumpDay family to you and yours! Today is the fourth day of Hanukkah, Christmas Day, and the day before the start of Kwanzaa so HumpDay is bringing you a very special HumpDay Holiday Edition! We have interesting facts and stories for each of the "Big Three" holidays this week so take a short break from your family and unwind with HumpDay! As always, check out the HumpDay website at HumpDayNewsletter.com and follow the official HumpDay Instagram!
Kwanzaa is a holiday that runs from December 26th to January 1st and is often associated with Hanukkah and Christmas although, unlike the other holidays, Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. Kwanzaa is well known as one of the main holidays of the holiday season (Late December to Early January) but most people don’t know what Kwanza is all about.
Kwanzaa is a fairly new holiday created in 1960 by an American Black Power activist, Maulana Karenga, to honor the African heritage of African Americans and all people descended from Africa. The goal of creating the new holiday was to unite people of African descent under a shared heritage and common values.
The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili word for “First Fruits” or “Harvest” since December marks the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere and marks the time when crops begin to grow. The traditions of Kwanzaa surround the concept of Nguzo Saba or “The seven Principals of Heritage”. Each of the 7 days of Kwanzaa celebrates one of the seven principals which include unity, self-determination, and creativity among other values. The seven principals are meant to remind practitioners of their African roots and instill values that lead to a stronger, more supportive, and unified community.
Today, nearly 28 million people around the world celebrate Kwanzaa to honor their African roots and promote unity among those with a common African heritage.
Hanukkah is the Jewish “Festival of Lights” that celebrates the miracle that occurred during the Maccabean Revolt of 167 AD. During the revolt, the Jewish rebels recaptured the Temple of Jerusalem and according to Hebrew scripture, the flame inside the temple but be lit at all times. There was only enough oil remaining to last one night but miraculously, the oil sustained the temples flame for eight days and eight nights, allowing enough time for more supplies to be brought in and for the flame to be sustained indefinitely. To this day, Jewish people light eight candles in honor of each day that the oil lasted in the temple of Jerusalem.
This religious practice is important to the Jewish faith because it symbolizes continued faith through times of difficulty or despair. No celebration of Hanukkah exhibits this religious principle more than the celebration of Hanukkah during World War II and the Holocaust.
One harrowing Hanukkah story comes from a woman named Edith Rotschild who was sent to the Ober-hohenelbe concentration camp in modern day Czech Republic with thousands of other Jewish people. She recounts a story of her and others in the concentration camp holding a secretive celebration of Hanukkah out of sight of the camp guards.
Rotschild and her group of fellow practitioners used raw potatoes cut into small sticks (similar to raw French fries) as candles and used strips torn from their clothing as wicks. In the middle of the night while the guards slept, they would light their makeshift candles and recite the traditional songs and prayers quietly from memory. Like the Jewish people who inspired the holiday, they were keeping their faith despite the war and despair that surrounded them. They continued to light the candles each night and after the eight days of Hanukkah, they were forced to eat their makeshift candles since food was so scarce and they couldn’t let good potatoes could go to waste.
Edith Rotschild and the others in her concentration camp were modern representations of those religious refugees, persecuted for their religion and driven from their homes, that found hope in their faith during the original celebration of Hanukkah.
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”
We all know Santa lives up in the north pole and delivers presents to boys and girls on Christmas day but have you ever wondered why sometimes he is referred to as St. Nicholas like in the above poem? Who is St. Nicholas? What happened to Kris Kringle?
The real St. Nicholas was a bishop that lived in Asia Minor (present day Turkey) during the 4th century A.D.. He was a wealthy man who inherited a sizable fortune after his parents passed away. Instead of retiring with his wealth, he decided to join the church and use his good fortune to help those in need.
St. Nicholas’ most famous act of charity occurred when he happened upon a poor man with three daughters. Because the man was poor, he couldn’t afford to pay the dowries required for his daughters to be married and thus he couldn’t set his daughters up with a husband to provide for them (marriage was more of a contract back then). Hearing of father’s money problems and hoping to provide for the daughters’ futures, St. Nicholas tried to help by providing the family with money. St. Nicholas didn’t want any recognition for his charitable gift, so he decided to sneakily give the family money buy dropping a bag of gold down the family’s chimney in the middle of the night (sound familiar). The gold in the bag was enough money for one daughters dowry. By accident, the bag of gold that St. Nick dropped down the chimney fell into a stocking that was hanging over the fire to dry and was discovered inside the stocking the next day. This is why we stuff stockings hung over the fireplace with gifts at Christmas time.
The next night, St. Nicholas dropped another bag of money down the chimney to cover the dowry of the second daughter and later dropped a third bag for the dowry of the third daughter. Upon leaving the third bag of gold, the father of the family caught St. Nicholas trying to sneak away. The father was extremely grateful and wanted to do something in return for St. Nicholas’ act of kindness but St. Nick refused.
Eventually, word got out of what St. Nicholas had done for the father and his three daughters and he became a hero in his community. After his death, Nicholas was made a saint and today serves as the patron saint of Children and sailors (not sure how boats got involved in this story but ok). Although the selfless acts of St. Nicholas had no connection to the birth of Jesus Christ (which is the reason for celebrating Christmas) today’s Christmas traditions clearly emulate the charitable deeds of the 4th century saint and the spirit of giving and helping others permeates the holiday season.
Although, today’s tradition of giving presents seems much more normal than giving cash to fathers so they can sell off their daughters.
This Week in History
On this week in 1888, Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh cut his ear off after suffering from severe depression. According to records, the renowned painter was living with a friend in France when he suffered from a manic episode which resulted in him threatening his friend with a knife. Without much thought, he turned the knife on himself and loped off his right ear lobe. Afterwards, he gave the piece of his ear to a prostitute in a nearby brothel. He went on to paint a famous self portrait titled “Self Portrait with a Bandaged Ear” which sold for $71.5 million dollars in 1998.
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