Brevard County has a diverse population that encompasses a wide range of cultures and religions, many of which observe major celebrations in December and January. Florida has the mildest winters in the continental United States. Holidays are typically sun-drenched rather than snow-covered, but that doesn’t quench the festive spirit of those who live here. These cherished winter holidays feature the sharing of traditional foods, gatherings of friends and family, and often, the exchange of gifts.
As pet parents, we want to share everything with our furry, feathery, or scaled family members. Still, many of the traditions that surround the winter holidays are simply not appropriate for non-human participants. Traditional holiday treats like chocolate, raisins, and special coffees and teas are anticipated indulgences for us, but toxic for our cats and dogs. Decorations like mistletoe, candles, and shiny tinsel create additional risks for them. Fortunately, not everything on your holiday fun list has to be off-limits to your pet. No matter which winter holiday you celebrate with your friends and family, there are ways to include your pet as well.
December 25th is the day that Christians celebrate the holiday of Christmas, to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. It is probably the most well-known of the winter holidays in the United States, with more cards sent off to friends and loved ones for Christmas than any other holiday.
Send out a picture of your pet with your holiday letters
Many people consider the writing of a family update letter to be an essential component of their Christmas, often handwriting each one and including updated photos and mementos. Slip an adorable photo of your pet in the envelope, or better yet include them in the family photos.
Bake pet-safe Christmas cookies
Christmas cookies are a favorite treat around this time of year, but even the ones that don’t include chocolate chips or raisins are far too full of fat and sugar to be healthy for our companion animals. Check online or stop by your favorite bookstore or library to discover recipes to make pet-safe cookies just for them.
Take a walk or a drive to view Christmas lights
While many animals prefer to enjoy the holiday season from the comfort of their homes, others are just as happy to get out of the house as their pet parents are. Take your adventurous pal for a walk or a drive to see all the fantastic holiday lights around the Space Coast! The Space Coast Lightfest held annually at Wickham Park in Melbourne, FL, is always a treat. If you haven’t been, consider going this upcoming holiday season.
Hanukkah, which is also sometimes spelled Chanukah, is an eight-day Jewish holiday that celebrates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The holiday starts on the Hebrew calendar date 25 Kislev, which corresponds to a date somewhere from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
Make homemade applesauce for your pet
Applesauce is frequently enjoyed with latkes during the holiday of Hanukkah, but storebought applesauce is typically too full of sugar to be healthy for our pets. Homemade apple sauce without added sugar, on the other hand, is an excellent treat for domestic animals that provides a tasty boost in vitamin c and potassium.
Give them an animal-safe dreidel
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top that is used to play the dreidel game, a type of gambling game that is traditionally played during the Hanukkah holiday. Provide your canine companion a stuffed plush dreidel to carry around with them or find a catnip-carrying toy shaped like a dreidel for your feline friend.
Honor them with an animal-related Menorah
The menorah is one of the most recognized of the symbols of Hanukkah, and it can be decorated in many different ways, including menorahs with animal figurines and places for photographs. The lighting of the menorah is said to represent a miracle observed by the Jewish people who rededicated the Second Temple, in which a menorah with only enough fuel for a single day managed to burn continuously for eight full days.
Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States from December 26th through January 1st, which honors the African heritage of African-American culture. It was first developed in 1996 and pays tribute to the “seven principals of African Heritage”: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).
Place an ear of corn on the Mkeka for your non-human family member.
The Mkeka is a traditional symbolic straw or woven mat that is said to represent the idea that nothing can be built without a foundation to rest upon. Other ceremonial symbols are placed on the mat, including an ear of corn for each child in the family.
Dress your dog in colors of the candles of the Kinara
The Kinara is a candleholder that houses seven candles – three red candles and three green, with one black candle in the center. The red candles symbolize Kujichagulia, Ujamaa, and Kuumba, the green Ujima, Nia, and Imani, and the black candle in the center stands for Umoja or unity. You can either dress your dog in one of the colors, either red, green, or black, or an outfit with all three colors.
Make a pet-safe Karamu feast
The Karamu Ya Imani, or the feast of faith, is celebrated on December 31 each year and incorporates several traditional foods from Africa, South America, and the Carribean. While your dog or cat may not be able to indulge in all of the foods that humans are able to, they can enjoy some traditional components such as cooked sweet potatoes, okra, and plantains.
The changing from one year to another is celebrated internationally on the 31st of December for countries that use the Gregorian Calendar. It is a night and a day full of promise. With the new year comes new possibilities, new plans, and new resolutions. It is a holiday filled with the kind of spectacle and noise that animals don’t really enjoy, but there are a few ways to give your pampered pet a good start to their year.
Play ball while watching the New Year’s Ball drop.
Americans have been ringing in the new year with the drop of the Time’s Square ball since 1908, and for those not near enough to visit in person, watching it on television has become an annual tradition. The majority of our pets don’t care about the spectacle of the Time’s Square ball drop, but most dogs enjoy playing fetch. Many cats are happy to chase a ball, as well, especially if it has a bell or catnip in it, just don’t expect them to bring it back.
Have a pet-friendly New Year’s bash
People often have large, lavish celebrations to celebrate the transition from one year to the next, complete with dancing, loud music, and champagne. While our pets do not always appreciate big, raucous parties, a smaller canine-oriented party may be more suitable.
Dress up for an Instagram session
As part of the New Year’s festivities, many people dress in brightly colored and sparkly outfits. Although not all of our companion animals enjoy dressing up, some of them truly enjoy the activity. If your pet falls in the latter category, get out your most vivid pet costumes and let them ham it up for the camera.
No matter what cultural or religious holiday or holidays that your family celebrates, there are ways to include your furry, feathery, or scaled friends in the merriment. If you don’t have a pet of your own, be sure to contact the Brevard Humane Society or the Brevard County Sherriff’s Office to see if they have any events going on. In past years, these organizations have hosted events that included allowing local families to provide temporary foster care over the holidays, and having children come read Christmas and other holiday stories to dogs and cats that are in the shelter.
If you are going out of town for the holidays and want to ensure that your pet is safe, secure, and happy at home, we’ve got you covered. Contact us at Space Coast Pet Services to set up a consultation.
Melanie is the owner and founder of Brevard’s premier trusted in-home pet care company. With a Sociology & Criminal Justice degree from the University of Tennessee, she took her corporate security background and combined it with her lifelong passion for animals – that’s how Space Coast Pet Services was born in 2016! She is certified in Pet First Aid & CPR, insured, and proudly completed a full background check successfully. She is committed to ongoing training and education for herself and her team. To learn more, click here.
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