There’s no ‘right’ way to celebrate the holidays
By: Missy Arneson
St. Louis Community College-Meramec has a very diverse student body and faculty, which means that everyone celebrates a variety of holidays in winter.
No two people celebrate the holidays the same.
Christmas is commonly celebrated in America and among students like Daniel Johns, who finds Christmas a very special holiday because it’s important to his faith.
“As a Christian I really have to appreciate the birth of Jesus,” Johns said.
Johns said his family focuses on spending time together and watching the Yule Log burn.
“We usually wake up and have some kind of good breakfast together,” Johns said.
Some Christmas traditions are religion based, such as burning a Yule Log, while others are just fun and help bring people together, usually involving food.
“We [my family and I] usually wake up and have some kind of good breakfast together,” Johns said.
“Food and family go together.” Other students celebrate Christmas from a less religious standpoint.
Student Sarah Dilallo said her favorite Christmas memory is of her dad putting a toy train around her family’s Christmas tree for the first time.
“The train actually put out smoke at the top, and made sparks on the track as it went around,” Dilallo said.
Christmas is celebrated very differently in other countries, said education professor Dr.
Ana Cruz, who grew up in Brazil.
The winter solstice in December marks the beginning of winter in America, but for Brazil in the southern hemisphere, December is during summer.
Cruz said she finally understood why Santa Claus was always dressed warmly for Christmas after coming to the United States.
Cruz said that since so much fruit grows in Brazil, people often eat lots of intricate dried fruit for Christmas.
Her husband and his family, who are from Germany, celebrate Christmas with a tradition of beautiful cookies.
Brazil is a largely Catholic nation, yet even so, Cruz said Christmas there is very different from Christmas here.
“You really experience Christmas from the Catholic and Christian point of view [here],” Cruz said.
New Year’s Eve
Another popular holiday to celebrate in the U.S. is New Year’s Eve.
Celebrations usually involve staying up until midnight to welcome in the new year, either with or without alcohol.
“We [as a family] always stay up until midnight and drink sparkling grape juice,” Johns said.
Sparkling grape juice is a popular substitute for alcohol for those who are underage, or simply don’t care for alcohol.
“We watch the ball drop,” Dilallo said.
“Since I’m not 21 yet, my dad gets sparkling grape juice… I live on that stuff for, like, a month.” Cruz said that while Brazil is also full of much merriment on New Year’s Eve, it’s celebrated somewhat differently than it is here in the U.S.
“Brazilians usually have what you call the midnight supper,” Cruz said.
“We eat at midnight… We bring in the new year eating with family.” Cruz said this tradition was difficult for her German family to take part in the first New Year’s Eve they spent together, since they were used to a much earlier schedule.
Once midnight struck, however, they understood the appeal of bringing in the new year with the midnight supper.
Another way to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Brazil for those who live near the ocean is to drink champagne on the beach and watch the fireworks.
People like Cruz who travel frequently or consider several countries their home may celebrate differently year-to-year.
“It all depends on where I am in the world,” Cruz said.
Other students don’t celebrate any holidays over winter break, like student Aia Obeed.
Obeed said she doesn’t celebrate Christmas or New Year’s Eve because she practises Islam.
Eid al-Iftar and Ed al-Adha
Islam only has two holidays: Eid al-Iftar, which is celebrated at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which is celebrated after the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
“[Muslims are] not supposed to celebrate other holidays,” Obeed said.
Student Bonu Yuldasheva said that in some countries Muslims only celebrate the two official holidays, while in other countries they may celebrate New Year’s Eve.
She said it depends on which country each person is from, and the religious climate of that country.
“Some countries are looser; less religious,” Yuldasheva said.
People from these ‘looser’ countries might celebrate New Year’s, Yuldasheva said, but they still don’t celebrate Christmas.
“We might acknowledge the birth of Jesus, but not go out and celebrate,” Obeed said.
Other students celebrate Hanukkah, like student Allaina Jaffe.
“We light a special candelabra called a Menorah,” Jaffe said.
“We light one candle each night using the light from the middle candle.
We eat potato pancakes called latkes.
Kids get presents, but not every night, because it’s eight nights.” Jaffe said her favorite Hanukkah tradition is lighting the Menorah and singing “Rock of Ages” with her family — a tradition her grandfather started.
“Just being together with family [is the best part],” student Linda Wiggins said.