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Christmas traditions are most common at USU, but diversity still exists this season

staff writer

Published: Monday, December 2, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 21:12

Christmas is a holiday celebrated around the world — by Christians. It is a remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ and a reflection on the three wise men who brought him gifts. This is where the symbolism of receiving presents on Christmas comes from. However, it is not the only holiday celebrated during the month of December, and there are many other religions that celebrate different holidays during this time.

The Jewish people, for example, celebrate Hanukkah; an eight-day holiday celebrating the miracle that occurred during the fight between the Jewish people known as Maccabees and the Greeks. The Maccabees won the battle, but when they arrived at the sacked temple, only one day's worth of oil for their menorah was found. Miraculously, the supply lasted for eight days — enough time to collect more oil.

Because the celebration is focused on the miracle of oil, the Jewish people eat food high in oil, such as potato pancakes — called latkes — and jelly donuts. In America and other countries outside of Israel, gifts are given throughout the eight days.

A candle is lit every night on the menorah, a candelabra with eight candles — one for each day the oil lasted — and play a game with a top called a dreidel. The top has a square body. Each face of the dreidel has a Hebrew letter, the first of each word that together makes the phrase "A great miracle happened there." Each letter tells the spinner to do a different thing, and individuals play with a collected amount of something — often pennies, chocolate or other small treasures. Based on the letter they land on, each player takes objects out of a pot or puts one of their own items into it. When one person has the entire pot, or if the time runs out, the game ends.

Kwanzaa is traditionally celebrated by African Americans and, according to the University of Pennsylvania, began in 1966 as a ritual to welcome the first harvests home. It was a big festival and has many similarities to Thanksgiving.

Five common sets of values are central to the activities of the week: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration. The seven principles of Kwanzaa utilize Kiswahili words for unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Each of seven lit candles signifies one of the principles, and like the Jewish Hanukkah, candles are used to represent concepts of the holiday.

There isn’t a holiday like Christmas in India, but the people do celebrate Diwali in November.

"It's a festival of lights and the triumph of good over bad and light over darkness," said Aditya Chauhan, a USU freshman from India. “It is celebrated in November, typically the first week. The Indian people put candles in rivers as a show of the triumph of good over evil, and, of course, eat lots of food.”  

Many countries celebrate Boxing Day in addition to Christmas. Boxing Day is a week-long celebration where everything goes on sale after the holidays. It is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their bosses or employers, known as a "Christmas box".

Whatever the holiday traditions celebrated, The Utah Statesman extends the warmest of wishes to all Aggies this season.

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