Harmonious Holidays


Courtney Cameron

A reflection of world-wide holiday celebrations from a R.E.A.L. Harmony club member

The holidays are a time when family and friends come together to celebrate generations of cultural traditions that form bonds and strengthen the community. The beautiful thing about the holidays is that there is an endless number of unique traditions for each family and community. Whether it’s exchanging gifts on Christmas morning or on the 8th night of Hanukkah, many holidays honor the same morals based on union and gratitude for friends and family. The holidays are a meaningful way to connect with your own roots, find a sense of belonging, while also learning about new cultures. 

Originally, Christmas was celebrated to commemorate the birth of Jesus Crist with a feast. Over centuries, the holiday has evolved with the cultures that have influenced the once primarily Christian holiday. Modern customs such as gift giving, Christmas trees, and caroling were mainly brought about for capitalist gains, but were adopted into society regardless. Christmas being such a popular holiday in the country has caused many people to fuse their religious beliefs with the holiday. After speaking with a teacher here at Farmingdale High School, I was pleased to learn that she celebrates Salgirah, an Islamic holiday, and Christmas during the month of December. She honors her cultural roots by feasting on East African dishes, her American customs by exchanging gifts, and decorates her home with red and green for both holidays. It is a given that most people will adapt to the environments that they are in. Being culturally flexible is an admirable quality because the appreciation of multiple holidays will only spread traditions and joy further to make the world a more aware space of the countless holidays being celebrated. 

Another popular holiday celebrated during the month of December is Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a festival of lights that memorializes the reclamation of Jerusalem by lighting the 9 candles of a candelabrum. Primarily in the U.S, the Christian belief of celebrating Christmas is so predominant that it has caused many Jews to adapt to the holiday. Because of this religious syncretism, it is not uncommon for many families to celebrate both holidays. Many of the students in our high school have sides of their families who practice either religions. The celebration of multiple holidays allows students to expand their knowledge on customs that contribute to their family beliefs. Not only do these students gain the opportunity to learn and expand their knowledge on a multitude of cultures, but they also have the chance to learn more in depth about their only cultural roots. 

Not all holidays are religious based. New Year’s Eve is a time to set goals and intentions as the new year approaches. Countries nationwide honor the new year with a variety of revelry consisting of parades, parties, feasts, and fireworks to bestow good vibes into the next year. For 15 days, billions of people in Asia, especially China, celebrate the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. The festival marks the end of winter and the anticipated spring season. Rosh Hashanah, an Jewish holiday celebrated in September or October, is a time of rejoice, introspection and the completion of another year. In India, Diwali coincides with the Hindu New Year, yet another festival of lights that signifies the triumphs of another year’s accomplishments by feasting, sharing gifts and foods, and enjoying the company of loved ones. 

When people look beyond the boundaries of their own religious and cultural practices, they realize how much holidays are alike in their morals. European, American, and African traditions often overlap because the cultures value similar aspects. Holidays all around the world are a time to show gratitude for life, friends, and family. It is important that people look at the holidays as an opportunity to push the bounds of their own customs, by learning, integrating, and accepting the abundant love offered from other cultural traditions. Sharing food or music during the time of merriment is a way to grasp the principles that create communities based on love, faith, compassion, and gratitude.