Co-written with Ayanna Diaz
The holiday season is definitely a busy one, with many different winter festivities going on at once. Ornamented evergreens, Jewish menorahs and Kwanzaa candles are just a few of the traditional icons associated with this festive time; each represent different ways that different cultures come together for the holidays. Christmas, the most celebrated holiday in the United States, has its own cultural variations as well.
The typical American probably associates Christmas with figures such as Santa Claus and his eight reindeer, but there are many other unique traditions that are celebrated in this national melting pot. For example, Mexican-Americans celebrate Christmas Eve more than they celebrate Christmas Day. They also continue Christmas celebrations on Three Kings Day, or El Día de Reyes. On this day, children leave a shoe by their door for the wise men to come and leave candy. Later in the day, families visit a relative’s house where they drink atole, a Mexican drink similar to hot chocolate, and eat rosca de reyes, a cake-like pastry that can have a small figurine of baby Jesus inside. Whoever gets the pastry with Jesus has to throw a party for the family on the Day of the Candlemas, or el Día de la Candelaria.
Spanish traditions are similar to those of Mexican-Americans. Just like most other Americans as well, Spaniards have big dinners with their families and believe in Santa Claus. They also celebrate El Dia de Reyes. However, one difference between the two cultures is ornamentation. “[In Spain,] we don’t really decorate our houses as much.” said Sergio Ramos (11), a Spanish exchange student at Andrean.
Despite the fact that unique traditions of global cultures flourish in the United States, there are also some distractors that take away from the initial importance of Christmas. “I think that nowadays, [Christmas] is a lot more commercialized, and I think that a lot of people notice that,” said Mr. Adam Antone, who spent four years in a seminary until leaving to further discern his vocation.
Antone believes that consumerism can lead families away from the main point of Christmas. “The idea of giving and thinking of somebody is good… when you get together as a family, exchanging gifts is nice, but hopefully it doesn’t become the focal point of the family gathering,” Antone said.
He also believes that the jump from Christmas into Thanksgiving can be too abrupt and completely leave out the celebration of Advent, which is meant to be a time of preparation for Christmas. “The whole point of the celebration is Jesus Christ being born,” Antone said. “So I think in that sense, the focus can kind of drift.”
Although Antone recognizes a shift in perspective, he remains optimistic about Americans’ overall sentiment for the holiday. Antone thinks of midnight mass whenever he thinks of Christmas, and he feels that Christmas is a time for all people to think about peace and goodwill. “[People are] thinking about ushering in the Prince of Peace into the world,” Antone said. “I think that right now, in society, especially in the United States, goodwill is something that is very much needed in a very divided country.”
Material things and events are not to be wholly taken for granted, either. Local organizations and companies, especially around Chicago, provide abundant opportunities for families and friends to get out of the house to celebrate the holiday season together. The Holiday Magic lights at Brookfield Zoo and the Christmas Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry are just two examples of things to do during the Christmas season.
It can be difficult to strike a balance between family, faith and fun in the midst of the holidays. Each culture has its own way of celebrating Christmas and finding its own balance; this can lead to an extremely diverse community, especially during the holiday season. Overall, Christmas brings people together all around the world for a holiday celebrating love.