When you think about the holidays, many people automatically go straight to Christmas—decorated trees and homes, pictures with Santa, Christmas songs, and lots, and lots of events!
However, there are holidays other than Christmas that are celebrated by families in the month of December. As a Central Indiana native, I’ve seen our city become such an amazing melting pot over the last several years, and what better way to show our kids this diversity than with some non-Christmas events around Indianapolis?
December Holiday Celebrations in Indy | Chanukah, Kwanzaa & Winter Solstice
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that lasts eight days and is a wintertime “festival of lights.” It’s celebrated with nightly menorah (a seven-branch candelabrum) lightings and other community events. First, special blessings are recited, often a traditional melody, and traditional songs are sung afterward. The menorah is lit in each home or place and placed in a doorway or window.
Since the Hanukkah miracle involved oil, it’s customary for those who practice to have delicious fried foods for the holiday. A fun game played by children on Hanukkah is Dreidel (a four-sided spinning top with Hebrew letters on each side). The game is played for coins, nuts, or other small gifts. Hanukkah this year will take place on December 7-15, 2023.
2023 Community Menorah Lightings in Indianapolis
Thursday, December 7 at 5:00 p.m.
Jewish Community Center and Hooverwood Living
Friday, December 8 at 4:30 p.m.
Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation
Saturday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Congregation Shaarey Tefilla and Congregation Beth Shalom
Sunday, December 10 at 5:30 p.m.
Congregation Beth-El Zedeck
Monday, December 11 at 5:30 p.m.
Hasten Hebrew Academy
Tuesday, December 12 at 5;30 p.m.
Chabad Lubavitch of Indiana
Wednesday, December 13 at 5:30 p.m.
Etz Chaim Sephardic Congregation and Jewish Community Relations Council
Thursday, December 14 at 5:30 p.m.
Indiana Jewish Discovery Center
2023 Community Menorah Lightings in Greater Indianapolis
Thursday, December 7 at 5;30 p.m.
Roy G. Holland Park, Fishers
Sunday, December 10 at 5:00 p.m.
Main Street, Zionsville
Thursday, December 14 at 6:00 p.m.
For more Hanukkah events and activities, check out Eight Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Hanukkah with your family and see our Indy Hanukkah Guide. Learn more about the holiday at the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis website.
Did you know that Indy has a community that celebrates Kwanzaa? What is Kwanzaa you ask? It’s a unique and fun family-filled African-American celebration. Kwanzaa is a celebration that focuses on heritage, ancestry, family togetherness, the community you are part of, and nature. The celebration is held from December 26, 2023 – January 1, 2024.
There are various important decorations that make Kwanzaa a great holiday to celebrate with family. The Kinara is a seven-day candle holder and represents the seven important aspects of Kwanzaa. The seven candles for each day include; one black, three red, and three green candles. The Mkeka is a straw mat that goes under the Kinara. An ear of corn for each child in the family, a fruit basket, and a unity cup.
Because Kwanzaa is a family-oriented celebration it’s easy to get little ones involved in all aspects of the seven-day celebration. Kids can help their family members light the Kinara for each day. Family members can have the child choose their ear of corn to have placed on the Mkeka and help put together a fruit basket. During the celebration, there is lots of music, dancing, delicious foods, a gift exchange on the last day, and history storytelling.
Umoja Village Celebration
Tuesday, December 26 from 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The AMP at 16 Tech, Indianapolis
The Umoja Village Celebration promises to be a fantastic gathering of community, culture, and unity. Immerse yourself in the rich traditions of Kwanzaa and experience the power of togetherness. Celebrate with live music, dance performances, delicious food, and engaging activities for all ages. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with others and embrace the spirit of Umoja, the first principle of Kwanzaa. Mark your calendars for a memorable experience that will leave you inspired and uplifted!
Kwanzaa Claus Visits Indy Reads
Sunday, December 17 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Indy Reads, Indianapolis
Join Flanner House CEO Dr. Brandon D. Cosby on December 17th, from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. for pictures with Kwanzaa Claus at Indy Reads! Celebrate the season with Kwanzaa Claus. Dr. Claus will be available for photos with children. An Indy Reads team member will be available to take photos or you may take your own! This event is recommended for all ages. There will also be some surprise Indy Reads goodies for each child.
Kwanzaa Today, Tomorrow, and Forever: A Soulful Celebration
Saturday, December 9 at 1:00 p.m.
Center for Interfaith Cooperation, Indianapolis
Get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant and soulful celebration of Kwanzaa. This event will honor African-American culture, heritage, and community. From enlightening discussions to captivating performances, this celebration promises to be an unforgettable experience. Come and embrace the spirit of unity, creativity, and collective responsibility that Kwanzaa represents. There will be food, fun, and activities with giveaways. Purchase your tickets now and get ready to experience the rich traditions and values of Kwanzaa!
The Solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice, once in summer and once in winter, each year when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the North or South Pole. During Solstices, the tilt of the axis of the Earth (with respect to the Sun) is the maximum at 23° and 26°.
Solstices occur on the 20th or 21st of June and the 21st or 22nd of December each year. During summer the day of the solstice is the longest day of the year and during winter the day of the solstice is the shortest day of the year.
With all this cold and snow moving into central Indiana it’s safe to say that we have truly entered the winter season. Winter Solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year and that happens during this month. This year the winter solstice will be on Thursday, December 21, 2023 which is the “official” start of our winter season. Many people around the world and right here in Indy celebrate and welcome the arrival of Winter Solstice.
Those who celebrate the Solstice enjoy singing special songs, telling stories, doing different crafts, activities, and having a nice feast afterward. A great way to get kids involved is to talk about the changes our earth goes through and about the various aspects of nature. Decorate your home with all things winter to welcome the season. A fun idea for littles is to have a fun sensory bin with snow and all things winter, and to include a yummy treat as well. No matter what your family celebrates, everyone experiences the seasons changing and winter solstice is a great way to welcome in a new season.
Indy Winter Solstice Celebration
Wednesday, December 20 and Thursday, December 21 at 7:00 p.m.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis
The Indy Winter Solstice Celebration will be on December 20 and 21 at 7:00 p.m., with seating beginning at 6:30 pm. The celebration consists of singing, storytelling, and a pitch-in feast. The celebration is free to attend and open to the public for all ages, but be sure to arrive early to secure your seat.
In addition to the family feast, attendees can look forward to family-friendly, non-denominational, holiday celebration fun, including:
– the fantastic space in the sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis
– twinkle lights and candle light
– instruments ranging from djembe (African drum) to cello and synthesizer
– a celebration choir, conducted by Pam Blevins Hinkle
– original music by Le Isaac Weaver
– spectacular visuals by Stephanie Lewis Robertson and crew
– a beautiful ritual published by Emerald Earth Publishing
– feasting and fellowship after the ritual
Newfields Winter Solstice Celebration
Thursday, December 21 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Light Up Snow Globes | Studio 3 & 4
Paper Lantern Making | Pulliam Great Family Hall
Photobooth | Efroymson Family Entrance Pavillion
Meet a Reindeer | Garden Terrace
Live Ice Carving | Garden Terrace
Cocoa & Cider for Purchase | Garden Terrace
Paper Bag Snowflake Making | Garden Terrace
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. & 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Live Holiday Music | Pulliam Great Family Hall
The Winter Solstice may be the shortest day of the year but there is no shortage of wonderful winter celebrations at Newfields. You’ll find everything from paper lantern making to ice carving, music, and hot cocoa as well as live reindeer! Stop by Studios 3 & 4 to make a light-up winter landscape snow globe and enjoy live music, luminary-making stations, games, and puzzles. Once you have finished your activities outside, head to Garden Terrace for hot cocoa, a chance to meet a live reindeer, see an ice carver sculpt fantastic creations in real-time, and make a giant paper bag snowflake to decorate your home with. The festival is included with general admission to Newfields and is free for members.
Check out some of these non-Christmas holiday events and teach your children about the diversity of religions and beliefs in our community. For more holiday fun, check out of ultimate holiday guide for things to do this season.