Looking past the Christmas tree: are we focusing too much on Christmas?

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By Milan Nguyen

As the last jack-o-lanterns are put away, Christmas comes snowing in with the twinkling of lights. Radios are playing Christmas songs and carols. Ads scatter the city, talking about discount sales for the upcoming shopping rush for presents. Stores everywhere are putting Christmas displays front and center  in their stores. No matter where we turn, it seems, there is always something that reminds us that Christmas has come.

However, with all of this talk about Christmas, people tend to overlook other holidays that are celebrated during the winter season, other holidays that are just as important as Christmas to their followers.

Another holiday that takes place during the month of December this year is Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that lasts for eight days. It starts on the 25th of Kislev, the Hebrew month that falls between November and December, celebrating the rededication of the second temple of Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt. Each day during Hanukkah, Jews light a candle on a candelabra called a menorah. Hanukkah begins on December 2 this year.

“Hanukkah is important to the Jewish community as well as for the general community because it celebrates what is fundamental to the United States: religious freedom and pride in who we are and in our culture. For the Jewish people, it celebrates the miracle of our existence,” Rabbi Eli Rivkin said.

Along with cultural importance, Hanukkah is an important time for relationships as well.

“It means getting together with my families and friends and having a good time with them. It is also the season of giving for me,” senior Brianna Voskoboynik said.

There is also the Hindu holiday of Diwali. Diwali is a festival of lights that is widely celebrated in India, regardless of faith. Diwali celebrates life and the victory of good over evil, symbolized by light. This year, Diwali began on November 7. The holiday lasts for five days often requires much preparation as houses are cleaned and lit up with candles. People resolve old debts and buy new clothes as a sign of prosperity and good fortune.

“Happy Diwali. So good to be home to celebrate with my loved ones. I wish for the world to be bestowed with love, light and happiness,” actress Priyanka Chopra posted on her Instagram on November 7 for Diwali.

Kwanzaa is another holiday taking place during the winter that is often overlooked. It begins on December 26 this year. Kwanzaa is a seven day holiday that celebrates African culture through listening to and performing African music and discussing African history. On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, celebrants hold a feast called Karamu and give gifts. Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966 as an alternative to Christmas, however it has since become something that many celebrate alongside Christmas. There are about six million Kwanzaa celebrants in the United States each year, according to the National Retail Federation.

With the overabundance of Christmas, it is easy to overlook other holidays, holidays that have great history and meaning to the people who celebrate them. While these holidays may not not often be shown in mainstream culture, they bring their own beauty and light to the holiday season.

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