Diana Kugel: Holding on to the holidays

As people start wandering out of Starbucks clutching holiday-themed cups, and as Kogan Plaza gets its first dusting of snow, it is hard to believe that this is the same place where racial and ethnic tensions had been building so highly all semester. All of that seems to be fading rapidly into the past as the holiday season is hurtling toward us at full speed. We as a community must take full advantage of the holidays this year so as to put all of the controversy of the fall semester behind us as we approach the new year. I don’t know about you, but I am more than ready to trade in posters and swastikas for gingerbread cookies and chocolate gelt.

The community that I grew up in was overwhelmingly Jewish, and even though I did have a fair share of friends of other religions, I never really had the chance to celebrate their holidays with them or to take part in some of the traditions that make the holiday season so fun. At GW, the “you celebrate your holiday and I’ll celebrate mine” mentality seems to go straight out the window. It almost makes up for all of the turmoil our campus has been dealing with to see both a menorah and a gingerbread house standing on the coffee table at my friends’ dorm or to be able to go see both the national Christmas tree and the national menorah at the same time.

Let’s face it: The holidays are a lot of fun. Sure, we could debate the religious connotations of the Christmas tree or of lighting the menorah, but why? As a child, no matter how much I loved Hanukkah, I would always be jealous of my friends who celebrated Christmas, not because of anything religious, but because it just always seemed like I was missing out. Of course each holiday is deeply rooted in religion, and those that observe that religion surely know and appreciate that. But the really great thing is that at GW, it just really does not seem to matter whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, one of the other hundreds of religions, or choose not to worship at all – you are still free to join in.

The holidays are a time when you suddenly really start to miss family and home that you are always so eager to escape from in September. As much as I wish I could be home to light the menorah with my family this year, finals and the end of the semester rush make that virtually impossible even though I actually don’t live that far away.

Short of calling it a day at Thanksgiving break and refusing to come back to school and take our finals, we are left with the alternative of embracing our friends and our surroundings to keep from missing out on what we love most about December. At the beginning of freshman year, we all form our own micro-families here at school, and even though our groups of friends may change over the years, it is still comforting to know that you have people that will not only indulge your favorite holiday traditions but share their own with you as well.

We should all be taking full advantage of this now. In a few years, after we all finish college and get jobs, we will no longer be surrounded by people as diverse as those we come to know and love at school, and celebrating holidays other than our own may start to feel strange again. These past two years, I have loved celebrating Christmas with my friends here at school and being able to have the best of both worlds. And even though Kwanzaa does not start until later in December, I wish I could have had the chance to experience that as well.

It is hard to believe that the differences among us that caused so much controversy and tension earlier in the semester are the same differences that let us experience the richness of the holiday season together. But hopefully long after the candy canes have gone stale and the wax has been cleaned off all the menorahs, we will be able to avoid the disasters of this fall. Let’s just chalk all of that up to a string of unfortunate instances and learn where we can from them. But for now, let’s enjoy the rest of December; even if that does mean having “Frosty the Snowman” stuck in your head for the next three weeks.

The writer, a sophomore majoring in psychology, is the Hatchet’s contributing opinions editor.

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