On Dec. 25, 336, Christians celebrated Christmas for the first time. For hundreds of years prior, the church’s main holiday had been the Epiphany, which marked the day when the three kings, or wise men, visited the newborn baby Jesus. For the early Christian church, this visit and subsequent holiday symbolized that salvation was available to all of mankind, a notion that certainly called for a celebration. However, later church leaders decided that the birth of Jesus should be celebrated as well, and they chose Dec. 25, a Roman pagan holiday celebrating the birth of the unconquered sun, to do so.
Fast-forward thousands of years and the United States declared Christmas a federal holiday on June 26, 1870. Our Christmas celebrations today incorporate certain elements of the early Christian holiday, but modern Christmas has also become a time to show gratitude for the things and people we have in our lives, share time with loved ones, and exchange gifts with our nearest and dearest. According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas today, but only 46% say that they celebrate it in a primarily religious way.
All of this to say, that things change. December is still the height of the holiday season in America, but Christmas isn’t the only holiday we’re celebrating. In fact, we celebrate at least 31 holidays in the month alone. Stacker used the National Today database to compile a list of unique holidays taking place every day this December. Using data from 2019, we’ve organized the holidays by date. From the wacky (International Ninja Day) to the religious (Chanukah) to the historical (National Pearl Harbor Day of Remembrance) to the cultural (Hogmanay), there’s something unique to be celebrated all month long.
Read on to see what each day in December will bring, and for suggestions of ways to celebrate.
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In 1880, Thomas Edison invented electric Christmas lights as a replacement for the lit candles families had been using to decorate their Christmas trees for years. Thanks to a general distrust of electricity, the invention didn’t catch on right away, and it wasn’t until General Electric began selling pre-assembled Christmas lights in 1903 that the public really bought into the idea. Now, on Dec. 1 of each year, we celebrate the electric lights that have become an integral part of the holiday season by stringing them up around our homes and apartments.
Created in 2005 by celebrity pet and family expert and animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige, National Mutt Day is all about celebrating, embracing, and saving mixed-breed dogs. Occurring twice a year (again on July 31), the day is a chance to shower a little bit of extra love on the mutts who bring so much joy to our lives.
National Disability Day is a holiday designed to promote compassion and understanding for those who have physical and mental disabilities. Understanding the challenges that others face not only brings us together, but helps ensure that everyone has equal opportunities for work, play, health, and success. Celebrate by becoming a more vocal advocate for the disabled, by lending a helping hand and by making a commitment to show more compassion throughout the year.
Born from the need to test an oven’s temperature before baking a cake, cookies have become one of America’s favorite desserts in their own right. On Dec. 4, celebrate the sweet treats by baking a dozen of your favorite variety. You won’t be alone—54% of Americans report favoring homemade cookies to the store-bought variety.
In 2003, the burger chain Ninja Burger created International Ninja Day to celebrate the “ninja speed” their burgers were delivered with. In keeping with the real spirit of the holiday, you could order a burger from your favorite joint. Alternatively, celebrate the mercenaries from which the holiday derives its name by taking a martial arts class or watching your favorite Ninja flick.
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National Miners Day was declared an official holiday by Congress in 2009. The day celebrates the difficult and often dangerous work these professionals do—work that drives our entire economy. You can celebrate by watching a documentary about the various hazards of the profession like “The Miners’ Hymns” or “Harlan County, USA.”
On Dec. 7, 1941, more than 2,400 peopled died when Japan attacked the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Honolulu, Hawaii. The worst attack on American soil by a foreign country, Pearl Harbor drew the country into WWII. On this day, we remember those who lost their lives as well as the families and loved ones they left behind.
Four days after stuffing your face with cookies to celebrate National Cookie Day, you can indulge in another sugar binge, this time in celebration of National Brownie Day. In 1893, Bertha Palmer instructed her staff at the Palmer House Hotel of Chicago to concoct a new recipe that could be served at the Columbian Exposition World’s Fair. The result was a gooey, chocolatey pastry that’s a favorite of sweet tooths all over the world.
Scientists have discovered evidence of llamas in South America as early as 10,000 B.C. The fuzzy, plant-eating farm animals have long been used as guard animals and working animals, and on Dec. 9 we celebrate their various contributions to our culture.
As the most popular beer on Earth, it’s only fitting lager should get its own special day (enjoyed responsibly, of course). Lager originated in 19th-century Bavaria, where brewers tried fermenting beers in cold cellars rather than the traditional warm storage used for ales.
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Mountains have been natural playgrounds and places of worship for humanity since the beginning of time. On International Mountain Day, we celebrate the geological feature, and the importance mountains have held for generations of humans. One way to celebrate is by volunteering to help clean up the mountains, or nature preserves, near you, to ensure they’ll be around for generations to come.
The official flower of Christmas, poinsettias come in hundreds of colors, although the most popular choice for the holiday season is classic red. In 2002, the house passed a measure that recognized the contributions of Paul Ecke, the founder of America’s poinsettia industry, which contributes about $250 million to the U.S. Economy. On Dec. 12, pick up a couple of these flowers to add to your decor—they’re sure to brighten your holiday season.
The National Guard was established in 1636, making it the oldest military organization in America. It’s also the country’s second-largest military force, behind the U.S. Army. While not a federal holiday, the National Guard’s anniversary gives us a chance to honor those who currently protect our country and have protected it in the past.
Created in 2000 by a group of college art students, National Monkey Day celebrates primates of all types. In particular, the holiday has become a time to shine a light on animal rights, reflecting on how far we’ve come and taking a hard look at how far we still have to go, especially when it comes to things like product testing on animals.
The first reference to cupcakes as we know them today appears in Eliza Leslie’s 1828 cookbook “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats.” Now, almost 200 years later, we celebrate the delicious and whimsical treat with a national holiday. The best way to celebrate is, of course, by indulging in some of your favorite flavors.
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December is a good month for those who prefer sweet to savory. Case in point: Dec. 16 is National Chocolate Covered Anything Day, the fifth of seven days this month celebrating sweet treats. One way to celebrate the holiday is by having a “dipping party.” Gather a group of friends who all bring one or two foods (traditional or not) that can be dipped in melted chocolate, and try them all.
Sugar maple trees (which the product is derived from) exist only on the east coast of North America. While the history of tapping these trees for their syrup isn’t totally clear, we know for sure that both Native Americans and English settlers were making maple syrup by the 1700s.
The Arabic script was developed in 350 A.D. in Jordan, but it wasn’t until Dec. 18, 1993, that it was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly as an official U.N. language. Since 2010, we’ve been celebrating Arabic Language Day, which celebrates the long history of the language as well as the numerous prolific works written in Arabic. In an effort to promote linguistic and cultural diversity, Arabic is the only language spoken in the U.N. on this day.
While many remember the emo trend from the early 2000s, the emo subculture actually has a much longer and more storied history tracing back to the mid-1980s. On National Emo Day we recognize the emo trend and its influences. Celebrate by pulling out your favorite skinny jeans, and listening to the band Rites of Spring’s only studio album, which many identify as the trend’s defining influence.
Ugly sweater parties are now a staple of holiday celebrations for many. Celebrate this festive holiday by wearing your favorite ugly pullover in a completely unironic way.
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The winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest period of darkness in the entire year. Many cultures mark the day with feasting and celebrations, as it signifies an optimistic turn from darkness to light. The Stonehenge monument was built around the winter and summer solstices, and many people around the world still flock there to celebrate with rituals each year.
While not one of the more important Jewish holidays, Chanukah’s proximity to Christmas has made it one of the most recognizable. The Festival of Lights, or the Festival of Rededication, celebrates the rededication of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Each year the holiday falls on the Hebrew Calendar date of 25 Kislev, which, in 2019, corresponds to Dec. 22–30 on the Georgian calendar.
A pop-culture holiday, Festivus was originally a plot point on the ‘90s sitcom “Seinfeld,” but has become a widely celebrated, all-inclusive holiday. With traditions like a “Festivus pole” and meatloaf dinner, as well as Airing Your Grievances and Feats of Strength, the holiday has no religious affiliation but is simply “for the rest of us” who don’t observe a specific faith. To celebrate, watch the “Seinfeld” episode where the holiday originates, “The Strike,” and maybe partake in some of the traditions yourself.
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Regarded by many as the most magical day of the year, Christmas Eve holds a variety of traditions for different cultures and religions around the world. For your average American household, it’s a day to hang stockings, leave cookies and milk out for Santa Clause, go Christmas caroling, binge Christmas movies, and attend church services. However you choose to celebrate, be sure to take a moment to revel in the promise and charm the day carries.
The roots of the Christmas holiday lie in Christianity, honoring the birth of Jesus Christ. Over the years, the holiday has evolved to become more secular and family-oriented, encouraging a whole host of traditions. In 2017, Pew found that 90% of Americans report celebrating Christmas.
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Boxing Day started in the U.K., but its exact origins are debated—most do agree, however, that "boxing" refers to Christmas boxes filled with gifts. Centuries ago, servants were usually given this day off to spend with their own families, as they likely had to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Today it is a national holiday in the U.K. as well as Ireland (and is recognized in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand). In the U.K. families and friends often have casual get-togethers and eat leftovers from Christmas Day dinner. Boxing Day has also become known for its sales at the shops.
Fruitcake is a very divisive dessert—you either love the dense cake filled with dried fruits, nuts, and sugar and drenched in brandy, or you hate it. Fruitcake can be traced all the way back to the Middle Ages, with many cultures having created various recipes over time.
The holiday season can get so rushed that even some of our closest relationships might slip through the cracks if we aren’t careful. Take some time to call those nearest and dearest to you on the 28th to simply check-in, or let them know how much you appreciate them.
Dec. 29 is a last-minute day to tackle any tasks you’ve yet to check off on your yearly “to-do” list. Take advantage of the downtime between Christmas and New Year’s to complete some of your still unfinished projects.
Finally, a holiday for those who prefer a salty snack to a sweet one. Dec. 30 is National Bacon Day when we celebrate the added pizzaz bacon brings to any dish. If you’re feeling guilty about indulging in the calorie-heavy food, this may help: Bacon contains a nutrient called choline that’s been known to decrease your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease and protects the heart against developing life-threatening problems.
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Hogmanay is a Scottish word that translates to “the last day of the year.” The holiday, which falls on New Year’s Eve, has roots in Norse and Gaelic traditions and provides an opportunity for Scots to throw parties and exchange gifts. “Auld Lang Syne,” a poem written by Robert Burns which we often sing to ring in the New Year, was written for the holiday in 1788.
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