Holiday Traditions

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Ella — New Year’s Eve

I don’t celebrate anything in December, so New Year’s Eve is the time to party. Some sort of New Year celebration is nearly universal among all cultures, and while my origin country Iran holds Persian New Year in March, we celebrate regular New Year too. Someone in my “Persian diasporic community” (which includes close to 50 Persian immigrants) will rent out a place where we all can gather or host the party at their own house. While the adults dance, sing and socialize, the kids spend the time before midnight goofing around and having fun. By the end of the night, we all gather together. We ring in the New Year by counting down simultaneously with Anderson Cooper who hosts the New Year celebration on CNN. The adrenaline always kicks in as we get to the final ten seconds, with our volume getting louder and louder with every tick of the clock. Once the clock hits midnight, we celebrate by blowing horns, hugging each other (though not anymore with COVID) and screaming at the top of our lungs. 

(Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Zoe — Hanukkah

My family celebrates Hanukkah, an eight day celebration known as “the festival of lights.” At sundown, we light the menorah and make or buy all of the traditional foods. My grandfather makes latkes, which are potato pancakes, to go with applesauce, my aunt will make brisket and we buy sufganiyot (jelly filled donuts) as dessert. Although we are awful at it, my sister and I will attempt to play dreidel; a game with a four-sided top engraved with Hebrew letters on the side. Hanukkah and all of its traditions are what makes it one of the most memorable holidays of the year. 

Kayra- New Year’s

Growing up in Turkey, I never traditionally celebrated Christmas. However, I looked forward to New Year’s since that was like my own “Christmas.” My mom and I always set up a giant tree on the entrance of our house and spent a whole week decorating it with lights and ornaments from years past. My favorite part was putting the star on top, although that wasn’t the most fun part about the night. My whole family would gather at my grandmother’s house and watch the New Year’s special of a top-rated singing show featuring celebrities in Turkey and play bingo, involving money, of course, until midnight. After 12 AM we would exchange our gifts and sometimes my best friend would come over. I get nostalgic every year when I celebrate New Year’s in the United States without my whole family. 

(Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Anya – Christmas

Although I’m personally not super religious, Christmas is one of my favorite days of the year because the festivities formed a huge part of my childhood. I always spent Winter Break with my grandparents in Goa, a small rural state near the city of Mumbai—where I used to live—in India. We sing carols and play piano together on Christmas Eve. The “babies” of the family, my brother and I, are allowed to open one gift each before church on Christmas morning. The service is always really beautiful because of the impeccable choir, and we spend time with family and friends afterwards. We eat breakfast together outside in the hot sun which is slightly more forgiving because it is technically winter. While we open presents together, our extended family arrives for Christmas lunch. We always go to my grandmother’s sister’s house for a huge feast at dinner.

Joseph- Christmas

In my house, the emphasis is placed on the “family” aspect of Christmas rather than the religious one. During the start of every winter break, my family and I fly down to Kingston, Jamaica from Florida. There, we usually visit my grandparents and cousins on both my paternal and maternal sides to rekindle old relationships and have dinner together. Both sides of my family live on either side of the island, which makes the trip very tiring. So, we start the day driving 2 hours to meet my father’s side of the family in the countryside of Manchester, and end it driving back to the capital to meet my mother’s side of the family. My siblings and I used to start the morning opening gifts under the Christmas tree, but my parents think we’ve outgrown tradition. Bummer.

Eva – Christmas Cruise

My family’s Christmas tradition is to take a cruise during winter break, jumping from beach to beach through the islands and coastal nations. Every year, I beg my family to travel to a colder climate, as I really want to see snow for the first time. However, we always trade the skis for the sand, somehow always visiting a climate more tropical than Florida. Since we spend Christmas day on the cruise, although they usually have holiday-related activities, it is much harder to get in the spirit. Sometimes we don’t even realize it is Christmas Day. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, we have not been able to take these trips. Instead, we celebrate Christmas in the more traditional way, decorating a tree, visiting family and eating a big meal. 

(Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

Irene — Winter Traveling

For as long as I can remember, my family has never liked to stay in one place. Whether it be a short drive across the state border or a flight to a different continent, vacationing is our favorite way to bond. Winter break serves as a well-earned rest to us all and visiting other places and immersing ourselves in their culture is how we choose to spend our holiday. My family is not overly religious, so while we do follow a lot of Christmas traditions such as decorating a tree or trying (and failing) to construct perfect gingerbread houses, for the most part, we stick to our own unique way of celebrating the holiday: traveling. 

Shreya — Holiday Movie Night

A cup of hot cocoa in my hand, a jar of sweet chocolate chip cookies, a couch buried in blankets, and a classic holiday movie sums up my favorite holiday tradition. Every year, my family gathers around the TV to watch holiday movies as the New Year approaches. The simplicity of watching movies during the holidays is what makes this tradition special to me. However, I must draw the line at Hallmark movies; they are just not worth the cringe.