How do students celebrate the holidays?
December 21, 2010
Hanukkah and Ramadan
Issaquah High School
At Issaquah High School, holiday traditions are not limited to Christmas trees and candy canes; students celebrate their individual beliefs in a variety of ways. Take for example junior Allie Lustig, who celebrates Hanukkah with her family.
“Every year, we make latkes at least once and play dreidel,” she said. “We do not play it every year, but it is a Hanukkah tradition, kind of like what eating fruitcake is to Christmas.”
Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, commemorates an ancient Jewish victory and lasts for eight days. Unlike Christmas, it does not begin on a definitive date on our calendar but on the 25th of Kislev on the Jewish calendar. However, similar to the widely celebrated Christian holiday, Hanukkah is an opportunity for families to spend time together away from the pressures of homework and deadlines.
“It is really just a time where my family and I can have dinner together,” Lustig explained. “We give each other gifts in appreciation for what we all do for each other.”
Junior Elina Kim does not celebrate a holiday during December.
“I’m Muslim,” she said. “We celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Ramadan.”
During Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, Muslims observe a fast from dawn to dusk. They refrain from eating and drinking in order to teach discipline and develop more compassion for the less fortunate. Kim described it as another time for a community to come together.
“In the end, it is just a bunch of parties,” Kim said, “where all your friends and family get together to eat and pray.”
For the love of science
Liberty High School
On that special day when many gather to celebrate Yuletide cheer, one Issaquah family commemorates something a bit more scientific.
“We celebrate Isaac Newton’s birthday, which falls on Dec. 25, mostly because I don’t like Christmas,” said Griffen Freese, Liberty High School senior. “I like the initial idea, but I feel like the holiday has become corrupt and very commercial, and I don’t support that. So instead we celebrate Isaac Newton Day.”
While others may celebrate the birth of Christ, the Freeses choose to pay their respects to knowledge.
“It’s a day in support of science, since we don’t really have a holiday like that in our country,” she said. “We think about how we can do better for our planet and our society.”
Although the family’s holiday may be unique, it is certainly not without traditions.
“We do science stuff, eat dinner together, talk about science stuff, and watch ‘Cosmos,’ by Carl Sagan,” Freese said.
Though she may try to avoid it, Freese cannot fully escape Christmas.
“We still do stockings,” she said. “My mom has imposed a lot of the Christmas stuff upon me. She loves to decorate. It’s kind of a weird mix of holidays.”
Like any holiday, however, the most important part is quality time spent with family.
“My favorite thing about it is probably the fact that we all talk to each other,” Freese said. “A lot of times, we’re very isolated and in our own little worlds, so for me, it’s a time where we can all get together and actively do things with each other.”
Celebrating the Feast of Lights
Skyline High School
“At Hanukkah, you don’t worry about your turkey burning the house down. You worry about the latke oil,” said Rachel Feldman, a Skyline High School senior.
She’s referring to the fried potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt. As described in the Talmud, after Roman forces were driven from the Temple, the Maccabees discovered that almost all of the ritual olive oil had been broken into. They found a single container still sealed. There was only enough oil to keep the menorah in the temple lit for a single day, but the oil burned for eight days.
“Hanukkah is significant because while most believed that the oil would only last one day, it instead lasted eight days and eight nights, proving to be a miracle,” Feldman said.
Jewish families celebrate the miracle by lighting a candle each day of Hanukkah and letting the candle burn by itself until sundown. On the Friday of Hanukkah, families attend Shabbat services to celebrate.
Feldman explained that the idea of gift giving is actually not observed in a traditional Hanukkah.
“Eight days of presents is actually an American invention for Hanukkah,” she said.
Christmas influences haven’t fazed Feldman, though.
“Growing up, I was actually happy to get my presents before the other kids who celebrated Christmas,” Feldman said. “Now, we have more rolls of Christmas paper than Hanukkah paper in my house.”
As for the best American condiments to go on top of latkes?
Feldman replied without hesitating, “Apple sauce, sour cream and jam.”
The invisible spirit
Eastside Catholic High School
Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or Ramadan, the feature stories in this issue highlight some of the world holidays celebrated by Issaquah citizens.
Yet, what is underrepresented during this time of year is what all of these holidays have in common — expressing gratitude for another blessings-filled year with family and friends.
In fact, think about people who are not necessarily religious. They enjoy the holiday season, too, even though they don’t have a specific holiday to celebrate. Why? Because the holiday season means a lot more than just the time of year during which a bunch of individual holidays occur.
It’s the time when we’re ready to welcome the fresh start that a new year brings. The feelings of generosity, care and a little extra niceness that happen during the holidays don’t necessarily have to do with the holidays themselves, but the fact that we all want to show our appreciation for life by rejoicing with loved ones and strangers alike.
Let’s all take a moment to think about what we are really celebrating — family and friends, good health, a supportive community and the invisible holiday spirit that’s guiding us all. So, if you or someone you know is getting bogged down by holiday preparations, invite them to watch some classic holiday movies with you or make gingerbread houses to help bring out their spirit. Because honestly, if Scrooge could find it, we all can. Happy holidays!