December 2023 Heritage Celebrations

To the UConn Community:

The Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the Provost’s Office would like to remind you of several celebrations, commemorations, and moments of raising awareness for members of our community during the month of December:

Cultural and Federal Holidays:

World AIDS Day (December 1): Founded in 1988, World AIDS day was the first ever global health day, usually commemorated by wearing a red ribbon. This day reminds us of the ongoing crisis of AIDS: more than 35 million people have died from HIV- or AIDS-related illnesses since the virus was first identified in 1984, and an estimated 38 million people worldwide have the virus today. The day offers an opportunity to commemorate those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses and to support those currently living with HIV, as well as to raise awareness, fight prejudice, and improve education. This year’s theme is “World AIDS Day 35: Let Communities Lead.”  Communities living with, and affected by, HIV, networks of people from key populations and youth leaders have been, and continue to be, essential for progress in the HIV response. This year’s theme is a call to action to empower and support these communities in their leadership roles.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3): First recognized by the United Nations in 1992, International Day of Persons with Disabilities promotes the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities and raises awareness about the political, economic, social, and cultural barriers to inclusion faced by those impacted by disability. It is important to remember that not all forms of disability are visible from the outside; some physical, mental, or neurological conditions that can challenge a person’s movements, senses, or activities are not obvious to others, which can lead to misperceptions, misunderstandings, and judgements. The theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities is “United in Action to Rescue and Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) For, With and By Persons with Disabilities,” which calls for re-energized efforts by Member States, the United Nations system, civil society and the global community of persons with disabilities, through enhanced actions and international cooperation, to make the SDGs a reality for, with, and by persons with disabilities.

UConn has a strong commitment to expanding inclusion for people with disabilities through the Center for Students with Disabilities.  UConn also promotes awareness through academic programs like the Certificate of Interdisciplinary Disability Studies in Public Health and the Human and Developmental Sciences Families and Disabilities concentration, as well as academic centers like the Center for Excellence in the Study of Developmental Disabilities and the Collaborative on Postsecondary Education and Disability, and it offers courses in Disability Studies in Storrs and Waterbury.

Human Rights Day (December 10): Every year, we honor the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948, the Declaration establishes equal dignity and worth for every person and proclaims the inalienable rights that every human being is entitled to, regardless of race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, national origin, language, political orientation, or any other status.  Every December 10th, we acknowledge the importance of human rights.

UConn has a strong legacy of working to advance human rights.  The Human Rights Institute, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, serves as a focal point for interdisciplinary educational and research programming. The Institute’s faculty advisory board, the Gladstein Committee, is made up of 48 faculty from across the university who conduct research and offer courses on a wide range of human rights issues. HRI houses an undergraduate major and minor in human rights, as well as a master of arts and graduate certificate in human rights.  HRI’s Dodd Human Rights Impact awards the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, as well as programming related to human rights education, democracy and dialogue, business and human rights, and human rights film and digital media.

Innovative research and educational programs centering human rights take place across campus – including in numerous units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Schools of Business, Education, Engineering, Law, and Social Work, as well as UConn Health. And, student-oriented programming in the Human Rights and Action Learning Community, Community Outreach Alternative Breaks, and efforts of student organizations such as the Human Rights Symposium and Huskies for Human Rights deepen the work of human rights at UConn. The reach of human rights extends into our communities and beyond, particularly through the efforts of UConn Law’s Asylum and Human Rights Clinic and courses offered on human rights in high schools throughout Connecticut in the Early College Experience Program.

National Homeless Person’s Remembrance Day (December 21): National Homeless Person’s Remembrance Day takes place on the North American winter solstice, which is the longest night of the year and the first day of winter.  Recognized since 1990, this day raises awareness about the plight suffered by those who are homeless or housing insecure. Housing insecurity is an issue facing college students across the nation, including students at UConn. Students impacted by housing insecurity are especially vulnerable during long breaks, including Winter and Summer, where they might not have access to either housing or to campus dining facilities, which can also increase their food insecurity.  The University has a few resources to assist students impacted by housing and food insecurity, including the Dean of Students Office, who has financial resources for students in crisis, and Off-Campus and Commuter Student Services.

Boxing Day (December 26): Boxing Day is held in many countries associated with the British empire, especially in the Caribbean. Though traditions vary from place to place, typical customs include visiting family, friends, and neighbors with gifts, food, and drinks.

Kwanzaa (December 26 – January 1): From the Swahili matunda ya kwanza or “first fruits,” Kwanzaa is a seven-day African American cultural festival.  Started by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, this festival celebrates family, community, and culture. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa are dedicated to one of the Nguzo Saba (Seven Principles): Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), and Imani (Faith).  These seven principles are represented by a kinara (candle holder) holding seven candles of red, green, and black, which families light each night before discussing that day’s value.  On December 31, families join in karamu, a community feast. Some may wear traditional African clothing during the celebration. This year, the African American Cultural Center at Storrs will be holding its Kwanzaa celebration on Friday, 12/8, at 6:00 p.m. in the SU Ballroom.  The event is free, but please RSVP here.

Religious Holidays:

Advent (December 3 through December 24): In Christianity, Advent is a period of preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ at Christmas, as well as for preparing for Christ’s second coming. In Western churches, Advent begins on the Sunday nearest to November 30. Eastern Churches begin Advent 40 days before Christmas.

Hanukkah or Chanukkah (sundown December 7 through sundown December 15): Hanukkah, which is Hebrew for “Dedication,” is an 8-day Jewish festival celebrating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after Greek control in the second century BCE. Hanukkah is celebrated for 8 days because a single day’s supply of oil for the Temple menorah miraculously lasted eight full days. Often called the “Festival of Lights,” this holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah – which represents light pushing out darkness – traditional foods, games, and gifts. UConn Hillel will also be hosting the following events:

    • Thursday, December 7 (4 p.m. – 6 p.m.): Chinese Food at Chabad. Time is subject to change.
    • Saturday, December 9 (12 p.m. – 5 p.m., UConn Hillel): Bagels and Candles
    • Sunday, December 10 (12 p.m. to 5 p.m., UConn Hillel): Donuts and Candles
    • Monday, December 11 (12 p.m. – 2 p.m., UConn Hillel): Fuel up for Finals
    • Monday, December 11 (3 p.m. – 5 p.m., UConn Hillel): Break the Bread – Interfaith Gathering
    • Tuesday, December 12 (3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m., UConn Hillel): Sfing Making with Shirly
    • Wednesday, December 13 (3:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.): Latkes and Candles
    • Thursday, December 14 (4 p.m., UConn Hillel): Candle Lighting

Christmas (December 25): Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus, though it has also become a widespread secular holiday. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, and sharing meals with family and friends. Christmas was in the first group of federal holidays passed by Congress in 1870, along with New Year’s Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving.  Christians in the Orthodox tradition, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, celebrate Christmas on January 7th.

Saint Stephen’s Day (December 26 in Western Churches; December 27 in Eastern Churches): This Christian feast day commemorates Christianity’s first martyr. It is also an official public holiday in much of Europe and in countries associated with the British Commonwealth.  In some countries, it is known as the second day of Christmas.

We welcome the celebration of each of these holidays on our campuses and encourage support for those requiring accommodations. You can find information and guidance about academic accommodations for religious observations on the Provost Office’s webpage.

To see more information about resources and events happening this month and throughout the semester, please visit our events page at ODI writes these letters in collaboration with our partners across the UConn system. If we inadvertently omitted a cultural or religious holiday, please let us know by emailing us at

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Frank, Anne, and Jeff

Frank Tuitt
Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer

Anne D’Alleva
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Jeffrey F. Hines, MD
Associate Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, UConn Health