By Leea Glasheen
Many things affect holiday traditions, from religion to ethnic background to the family business. Members of the Mount Mary University community take part in holiday traditions and activities in a variety of ways. Take this opportunity to peer into your neighbors’ holiday windows!
Asia Mian; freshman and occupational therapy major:
Mian and her family celebrate no winter holidays, but the two major Muslim holidays, Eid al-fitr (which follows Ramadan) and Eid al-adha, change based on the lunar calendar, so they will fall in winter some years.
“We get together with family and eat, and then we pray,” Mian said. “During Ramadan, we fast during daylight hours, dawn to dusk, so you can connect to those who can’t afford food and you feel their struggle. It teaches you patience. Instead of taking your time to eat, you take your time to pray.”
Mian’s favorite thing about the holidays is getting together with all of her extended family whom she doesn’t see often.
Zahrea Hill; freshman and pre-dentistry major:
Hill and her family send food to her mother’s community in Guyana each Christmas. Her family also celebrates Kwanzaa through her church. They wear dashikis and perform African dance with drum music.
“We light the seven candles, which stand for the seven principles of Kwanzaa, such as peace and unity,” Hill said. “It originated in America and is African American. We give gifts – books, food, and things to encourage you to be educated and love yourself.”
Hill’s favorite things about the holidays are the air and the cold and how the sun shines on the snow.
Joan Mukhwana; graduate student in the English program:
For Mukhwana and most Kenyans, Christmas is a religious and family holiday.
“Most people live and work far from their families, so traveling is very hectic as they travel to be with their families during Christmas,” Mukhwana said. “We decorate the church and houses in preparation of the festivities. Sharing food is a great value for us, and on Christmas Day, every family tries to come together and share the meals.”
Mukhwana’s favorite thing about the holiday season is the family spirit.
Sheila Suda; sophomore in the pre-med program:
Suda doesn’t see much difference between her traditions back home in Micronesia and mainstream U.S. traditions.
“Christmas is just like Christmas here, but we don’t have the white snow,” Suda said. “We exchange presents, have dinner, sit with the family, entertain each other, chat, do a Christmas tree, and decorate it together.”
Suda’s favorite thing about the holiday season is sitting down with her family and sharing stories about the whole year.
Shamae Amore; administrative assistant with the Mount Mary Midtown Grace Scholars Program:
Amore was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when she was 11 years old. Amore said Christmas is about family in Jamaica, and there is not as much emphasis on gift-giving, though families that can afford it will give gifts of clothing. They cook traditional dishes, such as curried goat, rice and beef.
“We don’t usually have a tree or a chimney because we are close to the equator,” Amore said. “It would be crazy to have a fireplace. The concept of Santa Claus we don’t do because it is a British-centered holiday and tends to be more religious than the American holiday.”
Amore’s favorite thing about Christmas is being around family.
Michelle Roldan; freshman majoring in social work:
Roldan and her family have Thanksgiving dinner with friends at her church each year. However, the nondenominational, Spanish-speaking church that she attends does not celebrate Christmas.
“My church and pastor don’t agree with giving each other gifts and giving into consumer needs on the day of Jesus’ birthday,” Roldan said. “They find buying all the decorations and gifts vain.”
Roldan’s favorite things about the holiday season are the food, working the extra hours and eggnog.
Sandra Garcia; freshman in the international studies and business programs:
Garcia has spent many Christmases in her parents’ native country, Mexico. Christmas begins for her family Dec. 1 with the celebration of the Virgin de Guadalupe, followed by Las Posadas on Dec. 16 and various special days and parties through Christmas Day. Jan. 6 is Three Kings and the whole shebang ends Feb. 2 with El Día de la Candelaria.
“On Christmas Eve, we go to church around 7 and then get together at Grandma’s and have a big dinner.”
Garcia’s favorite things about the holiday season are parties and volunteering to help others.
Sara Raasch; graduate student in the English program:
Raasch’s ethnic heritage is Norwegian and is very much a part of her Christmas tradition. Her family says a poem in Norwegian to the little Nisse, a benevolent Norwegian troll with a red cap.
“For us, Christmas Eve is the the magical night,” Raasch said. “We go to church and then have a dinner of spare ribs, mashed potatoes and rice pudding. We sing Christmas carols, and either the youngest or oldest child reads the Gospel according to Luke, which is the nativity story. I play the piano, and my daughters play the harp. Then we open presents.”
Raasch’s favorite things about the holidays are being with her family and the religious aspect.
Lucy Vou; freshman in the early childhood education major:
Vou celebrates her birthday on Christmas!
“Intimate family comes together and close friends, and we have cake and fried rice and chicken,” Vou said. “We decorate together before Christmas and have presents under the tree … My family is very busy, and we have a small store, and it is one of the only times we can close it and come together as a family.”
Vou’s favorite thing about the holiday season is reflecting on the previous year.