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Holiday Cheers! The Importance of Inclusion by Alona A.

The winter holidays are right around the corner, and so many people around the world are getting ready for Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day/Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year, and other winter celebrations, so let’s take a moment to learn about some of these popular holidays!

In our school, most students commemorate the winter holiday Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the son of God. This holiday takes place on December 25th each year. Some traditions on Christmas include: setting up Christmas trees with ornaments, staying up until midnight to give/receive gifts, giving back to the community, dancing, singing, and eating meals that are similar to thanksgiving meals (Turkey, beans, gravy, mashed potatoes, etc). Some people also have a Hungarian version of Christmas called Saint Nicholas Day on December 6th, where children clean their boots and put them outside, and Saint Nick will put presents in them if they are good and sticks in them if they are bad.


The next most celebrated winter holiday in our school is Hanukkah, the celebration of how the oil lamp lasted eight days and blessed the Jews with enough time to find more oil for the lamp and rebuild their temple. This year, Hanukkah will be celebrated between December 18-December 25. Although many Americans only recognize this Jewish holiday and believe it is the most important, it may be one of the least. One very important Jewish holiday is Yom Kippur.


A Jewish student at JWMS expresses, “I wish our schools would focus on holidays that are actually of importance for Jews, and I wish that our schools would educate students about those holidays. One [very] important holiday to the Jewish people is Yom Kippur; it's the most important holiday that we observe. I don't believe that it's mentioned in school, and I wish people would be educated about it.” Another student says they wish people would recognize that not only Christmas is celebrated during Winter Break. This shows the importance of learning about holidays such as Judaism in this example, and how we can be more inclusive and understanding of people’s religious observances.


In Islam, people celebrate the two big holidays called Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan) and Eid al-Adha. Because Muslims follow a lunar calendar, these holidays will sometimes fall in the winter category. Both Ramadan and Eid al-Adha follow a period of ten holy days and nights. The last night of Ramadan is the holiest night of the year.


Kwanzaa is a celebration that honors African heritage and culture. Kwanzaa is honored between December 26 through January 1st. This holiday culminates in gift-giving and a feast. Each day of Kwanzaa represents a principle, and a candle is lit on a kinara (candleholder). The seven core principles are Unity (Umoja), Self-determination (Kujichagulia), Collective work and responsibility (Ujima), Cooperative economics (Ujamaa), Purpose (Nia), Creativity (Kuumba), and Faith (Imani).

Winter holidays celebrated by Julius West students

Now, for the New Year! Many people celebrate the traditional New Year on January 1st and their cultural New Year! Some people commemorate Seollal (the Korean new year), Songkran (the Thai new year), Chinese new year, Nowruz (the Persian new year), the lunar new year, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), and many more! Although only a few of these fall into the winter category. These celebrations all generally have festivities, foods, and new year's resolutions! One student who celebrates Songkran says, “For Songkran, I like going to nearby festivals with family, where they sell traditional Thai goods and food. I’ve also gone to temples with them, too.”


Some people do not observe any winter holidays, which is great too! Everyone has their traditions, holidays, foods, culture, and things that make them unique. I hope everyone enjoys their winter break and has fun celebrating any holidays.


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