12/21/2012 03:18 pm ET

Table Talk: Holiday Traditions

Hanukkah is already over, and there are only three days left until Christmas -- so chances are you've been hearing a lot about people's holiday plans and customs over the past few weeks. But how much do you know about your family's own holiday traditions, and the beliefs of those around you?

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah -- which commemorates the recapture of Jerusalem from the Syrian Greeks more than two thousand years ago -- lasted from the 8th to the 16th of December this year. Jewish families celebrate Hanukkah by lighting the menorah every night for eight nights, often also exchanging gifts and eating special holiday foods like potato pancakes (latkes).

Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, and happens on December 25th every year. Of course, many people also associate the holiday with Christmas trees, carols and presents from Santa Claus.

Kwanzaa, a non-religious celebration of African-American heritage, lasts from December 26 through January 1. Its customs include lighting black, red and green candles that represent principles like unity, creativity and faith.

Some families celebrate more than one of these holidays; some celebrate none. You probably know some people whose religious beliefs are different from yours -- but even if you don't share their beliefs, that doesn't mean you can't appreciate their traditions. Tonight, let's talk about why we celebrate the holidays the way we do -- and how we can be aware of the beliefs of those around us.

Questions for discussion:
  • What does your family do for the holidays?
  • What do you like about your family's holiday traditions?
  • How similar or different are your friends' holiday celebrations?
  • Why do you think rituals are important?


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