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Because Christmas is a federal holiday, it is easy to forget about the religious overtones to it. Some people have a different perspective during this season, opting to celebrate another occasion instead.

Here are some of the important non-Christmas celebrations people observe each December.


Although you can pronounce this holiday in about 15 different ways and still be correct, this eight-day lesser celebration can sometimes start in late November. It commemorated when Jerusalem’s holy temple was rededicated after the Israelites defeated the Syrians and Greeks in the second century BC.


For those who avoid all religious connotations with their celebrations, December is the time of Yule. It marks the winter solstice, which is when the northern hemisphere has its shortest daylight hours. In the south, it celebrates the longest day of the year. It is a time of rebirth.


This Hindu festival occurs before December most years, but the Festival of Lights is still an essential part of the holiday season. Each day celebrates a different legend, with families gathering for feasts and fireworks.


About five million people celebrate this non-Christmas holiday in the United States each year. It’s a seven-day occasion that celebrates African culture, starting on Boxing Day and going to the new year. A big feast happens on the sixth day, which happens to be New Year’s Eve. The tradition is to give gifts of creativity, or Kuumba, to loved ones.

Las Posadas

This nine-day holiday occurs about a week before Christmas. It includes songs, candles, and parades that incorporate some Christian themes in some communities. You’ll find lots of parties, tamales, and gifts as part of the overall celebration. It is not unusual for some families to include both holidays in their December plans.

Christmas can feel commercialized with all of its shopping events, decorations, and expectations. If you want to feel more connected, consider trying one of these alternatives this year.

Scott Larson