Most people associate winter break with Christmas, and with that time approaching quickly, it is important to note that there are other, somewhat marginalized, celebrations during this time of year. The most well known examples are Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, although there is also Boxing Day Chinese New Year (but that does not occur until the end of January). While some readers may not know anyone who celebrates these holidays (well, maybe not at first glance), it is important to understand and respect these celebrations.
I remember in fifth grade I was invited to a Boxing Day party. Granted, I had no clue what Boxing Day actually was, and assumed someone was planning a Christmas party that was not able to actually happen on Christmas. Boxing Day, however, is like an extension to Christmas, celebrated on Dec. 26 in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland, among other English-speaking countries. It originated as a way for workers to have a break off from their job. While celebration of this holiday may not be common in the United States, it is a part of a large culture, and as such, it is important to respect. By doing this, we can learn something about a significant fraction of the world and keep an open mind in understanding a culture new and different.
There are additional winter holidays, and one of the most famous is Hanukkah. Celebrated by the Jewish faith, typically in December, as a way to commemorate the miracle of the oil that was used to light the menorah lasting eight days, it is an important event in the history of the Jewish people. Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday, with the dates changing every year as it is based on the Jewish calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar. While the majority of Americans subscribe to the Christian faith (71 percent according to BBC), learning about the Jewish faith and their holidays, which may occur around the same time as Christian holidays (Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve this year), can allow a person to avoid devaluing Jewish beliefs.
Another annual celebration of culture is Kwanzaa, a seven-day long way to emphasize the ideals of African culture and solidarity. According to Maulana Karenga, a professor at California State University, “Each family celebrates Kwanzaa in its own way, but celebrations often include songs and dances, African drums, storytelling, poetry reading, and a large traditional meal.” During this holiday, a Kinara (candelabra) is lit, with a different candle being ignited each night. The candles each represent a different principle, such as unity, faith, and creativity. Kwanzaa begins the day after Christmas and finishes on New Year’s Day. However on Dec. 31, there is a feast known as a Karamu.
Students may have noticed that Atlantic has been posting decorations for numerous cultures and holidays, not just images of Christmas trees. Some of the most viewed have been for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and it is definitely noteworthy that the school is trying to commemorate all the holidays they can. All people should try to emulate what the school is doing; by respecting other religions and ethnicities, a person can demonstrate tolerance, become more open-minded, and acquire new, and possibly life-changing, experiences and ideas.