Marissa Fretes: What the holidays are really all about

It’s that time of year again. Get ready for carols, candy canes and corny holiday specials on television.

But in the hubbub of the holidays, it is easy to forget about the religious meaning behind the festivities.

To counter this disregard, the University should sponsor interfaith events during the season to help students develop a deeper understanding of other faiths and of forming a community around religion.

After all, many celebrate something during December, whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or even the Winter Solstice. It’s the time of year that most of us have in common, despite how different our holidays and our faiths might be. And it’s a time that represents coming together with loved ones and celebrating the time we share. While each might be unique, it is a common thread and one of the most meaningful times of the year for people of almost every faith.

GW’s Interfaith Dinner is a great start, but it is in early November – before anyone begins even thinking about the more mainstream, consumer-obsessed holiday season. The dinner should be a starting point in discussion and in action with more events following throughout the months of November and December.

An interfaith day of service would epitomize the values behind interfaith cooperation, especially during a time as important and meaningful as the holidays. In addition to helping the D.C. community at large, an interfaith day of service would allow for the many faiths within the student body to come together in service.

Even President Barack Obama has advocated for interfaith cooperation in acts of community service, and for people of all faiths coming together to help their communities – something he has called “interfaith service.”

But it doesn’t have to stop there. The holiday season, after all, contains days of meaning for many religions. Another option is an event celebrating each of the holidays of the season, featuring all of the major religious groups on campus.

Like an interfaith day of service, such an event would allow for many students of different faiths to come together in celebration.

But an interfaith celebration would allow for people to be directly introduced to the specific qualities that make other religions special, educating themselves while still allowing the student body to come together to celebrate the fact that so many of us have religions. And the event could culminate in a discussion about the meaning of the holidays and the need for interfaith cooperation in facing the problems of the world.

Interfaith events allow for a greater and more meaningful interaction between communities and between students who perhaps would not get the chance to interact often otherwise.

Because no matter how different every faith seems, no matter how different each of our holidays are, many students share the idea and the belief in the power of faith.

After all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Marissa Fretes, a freshman majoring in English, is a Hatchet columnist.

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