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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Life + Arts

Celebrating holiday diversity

In Jewish culture, Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration known as the “Festival of Lights.” One candle on the menorah is lit each night in celebration of the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The event occurs from Dec. 20 and Dec. 28 each year. | Wikimedia Commons

Our campus is a beautiful blend of culture, heritage, race and religion. Everyone is an individual yet the same, and we are all blended together on campus. The holidays are knocking on the door, so take a momentary pause for a season filled with varying holiday cultures from around the world; all under our noses. Holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are the most prominent in the US.

Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights and is celebrated by Jews worldwide. This is an eight-day event filled with beautifully lit menorahs, delicious foods, family and friends, games, music and small gifts for children. Humbling prayers are read every night to keep the memory of the miracle of the lamp that burned for eight days with only enough oil for one.  Hanukkah 2011 will begin at sunset on Dec. 20 and end at sunset on Dec. 28.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in the Christian religion; however it has gained popularity among non-Christians as well. Christmas is always recognized on Dec. 25. This holiday, much like Hanukkah, is filled with family, friends, food, gifts, music and, in place of the menorah, there is usually a tree decked with lights and ornaments.  Oh, and we can’t forget the stockings filled by Santa.

Kwanzaa is a holiday created by Maulana Karenga and was first celebrated in 1966. It is a seven-day celebration honoring African-American heritage and culture. This holiday is also filled with activities like those of Christmas and Hanukkah, including candle lighting.  It is wrapped up by an amazing feast and gift giving.

An interview with Malachi Crawford, assistant director of African American studies at UH revealed that Kwanzaa is not just celebrated in the US, but worldwide. When asked why African Americans celebrate the holiday and what it means to them, Crawford said, “Kwanzaa is a basis for centering who we are as a people…it is important because for seven days out of the year we are focused on coming together and celebrating family, community and the traditions that are essential to making us a coherent ethnic group.” Kwanzaa is celebrated every year from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1.

When people take a moment to step back, learn even a little about other religions, beliefs and celebrations, it becomes easy to see that we aren’t that different after all. Everyone wants the same things during the holidays — good food, traditions, something to believe in, and family and friends to be with.

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