BLOOMINGTON - Although Christmas is over and many of us have returned to work, those of Jewish faith and African culture will celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa for the rest of the week.
And Monday, which for many Americans was a day to shop for bargains or return unwanted gifts, was Boxing Day for people who live in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Hanukkah, the eight-day festival in which Jews celebrate their religious freedom, has grown from a minor religious observance into the Jewish version of Christmas, said Rabbi Paul Kaplan, who leads Moses Montefiore Temple.
For eight days and eight nights, Jews commemorate the re-dedication of their holy temple in Jerusalem by showering loved ones with gifts, Kaplan said, a tradition that has evolved in the last 100 years with the increasing commercialization of Christmas.
Hanukkah began Sunday night and will end at sundown Jan. 2. Many Jews mark the holiday with the lighting of eight candles on a menorah.
Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday, started in 1966 to celebrate values such as community responsibility, family, commerce and self-improvement. It began Monday and will continue through New Year's Day.
Caribel Washington, a longtime activist and fixture in the black community of the Twin Cities, said there weren't any Kwanzaa events planned this year at local churches. She said students at Illinois State University and Illinois Wesleyan University celebrated Kwanzaa earlier this month.
Hanukkah began being celebrated after the Jews defeated the Hellenist Syrians. Three years earlier, the Syrians had seized the holy temple in Jerusalem, outlawed Jewish rituals and forced Jews to worship Zeus, the most powerful of the Greek gods.
But the Jews recaptured the Temple and for eight days celebrated its re-dedication to God. Kaplan said he encourages worshippers at Moses Montefiore to celebrate the holiday in moderation.
"There's nothing wrong with gift giving. There's nothing wrong with wishing peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. Just don't get caught in the commercialization and let yourself get into too much debt," Kaplan said. "Just don't go overboard."
Boxing Day recognizes people who rendered a service during the previous year and traditionally is held on the first weekday after Christmas. It is celebrated in Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Today, the tradition includes giving gifts to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters and others who have provided help.