Christmas not the ‘only’ holiday celebrated this time of year

by Ana West, Features

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It is that time of year again in Michigan. Snow is falling from the sky, colored lights are hanging up downtown, and decorated evergreen trees are starting to pop up in homes, in stores, and in large groups on the side of the road. As that old holiday staple goes, it is, indeed, “beginning to look a lot like Christmas”…but what else might it be beginning to look like?

Although the majority of people in America (as well as a majority of people in West Michigan) identify as Christian, and Christmas is a holiday of the Christian faith (commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ in human form), not everyone is celebrating Christmas during December. There are many people in our country – and in our community – that are celebrating other holidays.

Nicholas Davis, a senior at Spring Lake High School, enjoys Christmas – “It’s nice to see because everybody gets so festive” – but he and his family do not celebrate Christmas themselves. “We’re Jewish, so we put up a menorah and celebrate Hanukkah.” A Jewish holiday commemorating the reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the celebration of Hanukkah typically occurs around Christmastime; this year, it begins on Christmas Eve and ends on New Year’s Day.

The celebration of Kwanzaa – a holiday observed as part of the Pan-African movement which honors and incorporates traditional African culture – starts on December 26th and goes through January 1st this year. However, not everyone is celebrating a specific holiday at this time. Major world religions like Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism have no holidays specifically designated to be celebrated around Christmastime; those who profess these faiths and live in America might choose to appreciate the festivities of holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah, even if they themselves do not celebrate them.

Furthermore, even though a majority of people in West Michigan are celebrating Christmas at this time of year, not everyone celebrates Christmas the same way. Ana Escarcega, an exchange student from Mexico, elaborated on the traditions of her home country for the Anchor: “Christmas season is longer in Mexico. We celebrate Las Posadas before, and on the Dia de Reyes (January 6, the Day of Kings) we have the rosca de reyes (a pastry cake with a figurine of the Christ child contained inside) to see who is going to throw another party in February.”

Holiday traditions differ among Americans as well: for different families, Christmas can entail going to church, doing volunteer work, driving or flying to see family, or sitting at home and eating Chinese food. There are many ways to celebrate Christmas; and none of them are wrong.

Every year in December, one hears grumblings about people saying “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” – but multiculturalism and the wide variety of existing traditions is something to celebrate, not something to be upset about. Whoever you are and whatever you celebrate, the Laker Anchor wishes you a happy holiday season and a happy new year.

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