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In the American English-speaking world, a holiday is a day set aside by a nation or culture, typically for celebration, but sometimes for other kinds of special culture-wide observances or activities. A holiday can also be a special day on which schools and/or offices are closed, such as Labor Day. In the British English-speaking world, a holiday is a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation; the North American equivalent is "vacation". However, some Canadians will use both the terms vacation and holiday interchangeably when referring to a trip away from home or time off of work.
The word holiday has related but different meanings in English-speaking countries. Based on the words holy and day, holidays originally represented special religious days. The word has evolved in general usage to mean any special day of rest (as opposed to regular days of rest, such as the weekend). When translated from/to other languages, the meanings of the word "holiday" may be conflated with those of "observance" and "celebration". Most holidays can be placed into one of several groupings, depending upon origin, calendar placements, and national observance. Almost all involve traditions of music, dance, art, and/or food, facilitating social engagement and relaxation.
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights or Festival of Rededication, is an eight-day Jewish holiday beginning on the 25th day of Kislev, which can occur in very late November, or throughout December. When Hanukkah begins in the last week of December, it continues into the following January. The festival is observed in Jewish homes by the kindling of lights on each of the festival's eight nights, one on the first night, two on the second, and so on.
In Hebrew, the word Hanukkah is written חנֻכה or חנוכה. The holiday was called Hanukkah meaning "dedication" because it marks the re-dedication of the Temple after its desecration under Antiochus IV. Spiritually, Hanukkah commemorates the Miracle of the Oil. According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days - which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate new oil.
Credit: Thomas Nast
One of the earliest depictions of the modern Santa Claus by Thomas Nast, which appeared on the cover of the January 3, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly. At this time, the image of Santa Claus had not yet merged with that of Father Christmas. This version was likely based on the Belsnickel ("Furry Nicholas"), a mythical being who visited naughty children in their sleep. This Santa was a man dressed up handing out gifts to Union Army soldiers.