Diversity of holidays celebrated in December across Kawartha Lakes


By Denise Waldron

Breaking the fast after Ramadan with a meal with family and friends is a "real feast," says Lindsay's Abdul Sangrar. Photo: Sienna Frost.

December is a month filled with a rich tapestry of celebrations from various cultural and religious backgrounds.

From Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights celebrated by Jewish communities, to the Winter Solstice, a time when Wiccans and Neo-Pagans mark the return of longer days, and the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, which reflect themes of fasting, charity, and remembrance.

December is also home to Christmas, a festive season marked by generosity, decorations, and gatherings, regardless of religious affiliation. These December celebrations remind us of the diversity and shared values that unite people in Kawartha Lakes.

Muslim Celebrations

Eid al-Fitr is a holiday at the end of Ramadan, a month when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. During Ramadan, the breaking of each day’s fast typically involves a meal with family and often friends. Once the month is over, they have a big celebration meal with family and friends, say special prayers, and may give gifts to each other.

Often shortened to just Eid, it is celebrated about two months later and 10 days after Ramadan ends and lasts four days. It is a holiday to remember the Prophet Abraham. He was ready to sacrifice his son as God asked him in a dream. God gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead of his son. Muslims will sacrifice a sheep, a cow, a goat, or some other animal. During this time, the distribution of the meat is one-third for the family, one-third for friends, and one-third to the poor. Some make a pilgrimage to Mecca as well.

As Muslims follow a lunar calendar that is 10 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the dates of both celebrations change each year, and either holiday may occur in December in some years.

Abdul Sangrar is a Lindsay Muslim who says both celebrations are equally important to him. Breaking the fast after Ramadan with a meal with family and friends is a “real feast,” and the giving of meat during Eid is his favourite aspect of the later celebration.

Along with his wife and their families, they tend to go out for dinner, or have it catered as they have grown too large to hold celebrations in their homes.

Ari Zider says during Hanukkah, Jewish families light a special menorah with nine candles. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Sangrar is a nuclear medicine technologist at Ross Memorial Hospital and is originally from Kenya. He has donated meat to local food banks and buys a whole cow or goats for orphanages back home to mark the holiday. “That particular festival is very good because when we interact with people, we remember the poor.”


Lindsay Wiccan Sydney Crane and her husband, Spencer Crane. The best part of being Wiccan, according Sydney, is foraging with her family. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Hanukkah is a holiday celebrated by Jews, and it lasts for eight days. It is sometimes called the Festival of Lights and usually falls in December.

Lindsay realtor Ari Zider, who is Jewish, says the holiday is about a battle that happened, and there was a drop of oil left that was supposed to last one day. “The miracle is that this oil lasted for eight days.”

During Hanukkah, Jewish families light a special menorah with nine candles. One candle is used to light the others.

Zider says he loves to make potato pancakes called latkes. His family also prepares matzo ball soup, another traditional Hanukkah food.

Zider says he has the best of both worlds as his wife is Christian. Along with their two daughters, they celebrate both holidays. “Eight days of holidays, eight days of presents or money, and for us, we just combine it with Christmas.”

Winter Solstice Yule

Wiccans and Neo-Pagans celebrate the winter solstice on Dec. 21 with the festival of Yule.

The celebration starts with a trip through a forest or on a hiking trail to forage for seasonal items to be used in home decor for the celebration. Wiccan solstices or sabbaths rely heavily on using as much as you can from nature.

Lindsay Wiccan Sydney Crane and her husband, celebrate the Yule dinner with family and friends, and she notes the menu typically remains the same as Christmas fare, but it’s a common practice to use symbolism in the cuisine, such as baking bread or buns in the shape of the sun or carving appropriate runes and symbols onto the bottom of a pie crust before baking.

Crane uses pinecones and needles, along with dried orange slices, for garlands and to decorate. The orange slices symbolize the sun or sun god who is asleep or ‘dead’ for the winter. She notes there are also certain herbs, crystals, symbols, and even colours that correspond with Yule.

Gift-giving during the Yule celebration is key, said Crane, with family members making each other handmade items such as jams, knitted socks or sweaters, a favourite dessert, candles, lotions, or anything as long as it’s homemade.

The best part, according to Crane, is foraging with her family. She said it feels like one of the best ways to bond as a family without phones and just out walking and talking. “It’s really beautiful.”

Evergreen trees – whether real or artificial – have been popular Christmas decorations since the 16th century, symbolizing eternal life. File photo.


Christmas is a holiday celebrated on Dec. 25. It celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Many who are not Christians also celebrate Christmas because it’s a time for happiness, kindness, and spending time with loved ones. Children may wake up to find gifts from Santa Claus in their stockings. Christmas trees are adorned with ornaments, and homes may be festooned with lights and decor for the season as well. Most people mark the day with a large meal featuring a turkey or ham, potatoes, and many vegetables and sweets.

Wendy Witt is a real estate business owner in Fenelon who loves to spend Christmas with her family. Her three children are now grown with their own children, and the family does not get to spend Dec. 25 together often, but usually meet a few weeks before to celebrate.

In the early years of parenthood, Witt says they would celebrate two Christmases — with two big, traditional meals. Witt’s husband is German. The first celebration would be on the eve of Dec. 24, replete with a German sweet and sour red cabbage dish added to the meal and a call to the children from their German Oma and Opa. In keeping with their father’s heritage, the children would also open a gift from their grandparents. Witt used to sing in the Fenelon Falls United Church choir during the Christmas holidays as well.

On Christmas Day, the three Witt children would open gifts and enjoy the day and a turkey dinner with family. Their parents would invite guests to join them if they did not have anyone to spend the holiday with.

With the Witt children now grown and four grandchildren in the mix, Witt says when they can celebrate Christmas together — usually every other year — it is her best-loved tradition of the holiday.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day was said to originate in the 1800s in Great Britain. Flush business owners would give their employees and staff Christmas leftovers and other presents, sent home in boxes on Dec. 26. Other sources say the holiday was meant to collect donations for the poor.

Great Britain and some Commonwealth countries, including Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, celebrate modern Boxing Day traditions with shopping and sporting events.

While Joy Cross does enjoy finding bargains on Boxing Day, she embraces one of the original ideas of helping others as she shops to fill charity boxes for the next year. Cross supports the Samaritan’s Purse project, Operation Christmas Child. The program collects shoebox gifts filled with fun toys, school supplies, and personal care items—and delivers them to children in need around the world.

The Fenelon Falls resident and hospice services worker in Lindsay prepares for the day by scouring sale flyers beforehand. If she knows anyone heading to Peterborough, she may ask them to hunt down larger sale items.

But shopping local is always part of her plan, never missing a trip to the Red Apple department store in Fenelon Falls. “They do a huge sale on Boxing Day that most people don’t want to miss!”

While finding deals on Boxing Day is important to Cross, the best part for her is spending time with her family on Dec. 26.

Other Holidays

Although we couldn’t find local people celebrating them, other important holidays at this time of year include Kwanzaa, which is based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of West and Southeast Africa.

There’s also Ōmisoka, celebrating activities Japanese people do on the final day of the year. To usher in the new year, families and their children clean their homes to prepare for the New Year.

Posadas Navideñas in Mexico includes—traditional Christmas parties over a nine-day religious observance meant to honour Mary and Joseph’s quest for shelter.


  1. Eid ul-Fitr 2023 was in April and Eid ul-Adha 2023 was in June. However in 2033, there will be three Eids and the third one will fall on Christmas Day! What a holiday season that will be, as all three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – celebrate their common heritage together!!

    The story of Abraham sacrificing his son is central not only to Islam but also to Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, it is his son Ishmael that God directs Abraham to sacrifice but in Judaism and Christianity, it is his son Isaac that God directs Abraham to sacrifice. While the stories are otherwise very similar – God tests the faith of Abraham and rewards it by providing not only a ram to sacrifice instead of his son but also a promise that his descendants will bless the whole world – there are important differences.

    God promised Abraham a son to be an heir but when he and his wife, Sarah, began to age, they doubted God’s word. To ensure an heir, Abraham bedded Sarah’s Egyptian slave, Hagar, who bore a son who was named Ishmael. Ishmael grew up in Abraham’s household as his heir until he was fourteen, when Sarah got pregnant and gave birth to Isaac.

    Having now a legitimate (by marriage) heir, Abraham evicted both Hagar and Ishmael from his household and while he bequeathed the land to Isaac that, according to legend, was bequeathed to him by God, he also promised Ishmael that God would make of his descendants “a great nation”.

    Leonard Cohen tells the Story of Isaac in a way that makes it relevant to our time. It is one of my favourites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tr0HCqiD1C8

    In 164 BCE, in what is today Jerusalem, the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy succeeded and the Temple was liberated and rededicated. Chanukah celebrates that ancient victory of faith over oppression.

    The story of Christmas is also not about consumerism but about hope. The world has long awaited salvation and the story of Jesus brings hope in the salvation long promised by all the gods we worship.

    In times of great trial, we are reminded how powerful are the stories we tell about our past and how they influence our future. Humans are naturally migratory and the world’s Indigenous peoples – every one of us is indigenous to some place – tell similar stories about hope to try to explain the unknown mystery that is life. The bottom line for all who live is mystery, including the histories we tell one another about the Glory of God in the Highest.

  2. Wallace says:

    An article about religious celebrations that occur in December and you put Christmas second last on the list, just ahead of boxing day. How progressive of you.

  3. Avatar photo Roderick Benns says:

    Or maybe it’s because most readers know about Christmas traditions so it made sense to lead with the ones they are less familiar with. There are many ways to see something. Perhaps try not to look for conspiracies, political leanings, and negativity in everything you read or see.

    • These days, so many people of faith are feeling really beat up, and that includes Christians who see their churches burned down and witness spikes in unprecedented religious persecution around the world. It is easy to forget, when under fire, that the story of Jesus is for everyone.

      In these dark days of global conflict and unrest, when there are more displaced persons than ever before in human history, I am so grateful that in Canada, we are free to share our faith traditions with each other in peace.

      I love this: https://youtu.be/fnWZ7M2dLlM?si=l6lsiJc7bjYOz9wu

    • Wallace says:

      The west is doomed because we are the only people on earth who are being brainwashed to believe that our customs, life style and history should all be condemned and destroyed. Putting Christmas on the bottom of your little list is just another small way to convince us of how unimportant we are.

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