By Liliana Lopez, Copy Editor
During the months of November, December, and January, mainstream media often indulges in a plethora of Christmas advertising. From storefronts to television programming, it seems as if the whole nation is having themselves “. . . a Merry Little Christmas”. Amidst all of this celebration, it can be easy to forget about those in the U.S. who participate in other winter celebrations besides (or in addition to) Christmas.
Diwali, for instance, is a Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. The festival generally falls between mid-October and mid-November and lasts five days. The most well-known observance of Diwali is the lighting of oil lamps, candles, fireworks, and other such displays of light. However, other traditions include: exchanging of gifts and sweets, home decorating and cleansing, shopping for new clothes, and card playing.
Another holiday which is celebrated is the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. Much like Diwali, it is also a festival of lights which commemorates the triumph of good over evil. Hanukkah began when a small group of Jewish rebels defeated the Greeks who had previously ruled over them. Immediately, the faithful Jews began to perform religious rites again. However, there was only enough olive oil to light the menorah (the candlestick holder with 7 candles) for one day. Miraculously, this meager supply lasted for the whole week. Since then, Hanukkah has been an important celebration in Jewish tradition. Celebrations include lighting the menorah, gathering with loved ones for meals (fried foods are a favorite because of the miracle of the oil), giving gifts, and playing a dreidel, or spinning top, game.
In Latin American Catholic tradition, Dίa de los Reyes (Three Kings Day) is a celebration that is not separate from Christmas but, rather, supplemental to it. Celebrated on January 5th, which is the twelfth day of Christmas, Dίa de los Reyes commemorates the day the three kings first saw Jesus. Because the kings brought Jesus gifts, it is also customary to give gifts to children on Dίa de los Reyes. Children will leave a shoe on the doorstep for the kings, as well as food and water for the kings’ camels. But perhaps the most famous tradition of Dίa de los Reyes is the edible wreath, or rosca. Representing the Kings’ crowns, the dish is made of bread and filled with jelly and dried fruits. Inside, there is a figurine of Jesus as an infant. Tradition states that whoever gets the slice with the figurine must host the next party.
While these holidays are of a more religious nature, others such as Hmong New Year are not. Instead, it celebrates the ancient legend of the demise of a mythical beast who ate Hmong people. Hmong New Year celebrates the end of the harvest season and is often observed in lieu of Thanksgiving. At a typical New Year celebration, it is common to see traditional music and dance, foods, and games. The most popular of these games is the pov pob, or ball tossing game. Such is considered an act of flirtation; young people will often play the game as a means to meet and break the ice. Hmong New Year typically lasts 3 days and, if you are looking to attend a celebration nearby, is hosted at Cal Expo in Sacramento during Thanksgiving break.