Celebrating diversity this season

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: COLOURBOX.COM
This mall in Berlin has been deorated for the winter season without using a heavy Christmas theme.

It's pretty easy to overlook the fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas here in Canada — all you have to do is walk into a mall or supercentre to see the abundance of Christmas decorations to forget how diverse Canada's population really is.

Holiday diversity is about more than wishing "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas" — it's about building an understanding and appreciation of other cultures and traditions. One way to do that is by learning more about other celebrations and holidays during the winter season.

Bodhi Day is otherwise known as Day of Enlightenment and was first celebrated in 596 BC. It celebrates the day that Siddhartha Guatama achieved enlightenment and reached the Four Noble Truths, the founding principles of the faith.

This eight-day-long holiday is a celebration of religious freedom. Hanukkah commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews' victory over the oppressive Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 165 BC. Celebrations include the candle lighting, feasting, playing with the dreidel (four-sided top) and spending time with family.

Celebrated by ancient Germanic people and neo-pagans, this holiday has many similarities to Christmas traditions. Yule celebrates the return of the sun, and its traditions include tree decorating, gift exchanges and feasting. A Yule log may be burned to celebrate the birth of the Germanic sun god.

The Winter Solstice is usually celebrated by atheists but can be celebrated by anyone. The solstice happens on the longest night and shortest day of the year. Spending time with family, feasting and gift exchanges are all part of today's solstice celebrations.

Festivus started in 1966, by Dan O'Keefe, but wasn't popularized until 1997 when it was written into the script of an episode of Seinfeld. The holiday is celebrated by people who want to do away with the commercialism and religiousness of other traditions. Celebrations include Airing of Grievances, The Feats of Strength and a non-decorated Festivus pole rather than a Christmas tree.

Today, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, however some Christmas traditions like feasts, gift-giving and carolers started centuries before the popularization of Christianity. Christmas is celebrated by Christians and non-Christians.

Started in 1966, Kwanzaa is a week-long African-American celebration that focuses on values like family, responsibility and self-improvement. Each of the seven days recognizes a different value. Candle lighting, giftgiving and a final feast are all part of the holiday.

Freedom Day marks the official recognition of the Church of Scientology in the United States. However, some Scientologists do participate in more mainstream activities around Christmas time, like buying gifts and putting up a tree.

If we have missed your specific holiday celebration let us know in a letter to the editor: fsuletters@fanshawec.ca. We can include your festivities in an upcoming issue.