During the holidays, somewhere in the world, an iridescent sheet of fluffy, powdered-sugar snow spreads itself on the ground. In one house, a Christmas tree is seen; dazzling, jeweled ornaments hang from its waxy, pin-straight pine needles. In the next house, a spinning dreidel dances lightly across the table, while the sound of latkes frying creates background music in the kitchen.
In Silicon Valley, where the arrival of the holiday season is characterized by muddy slush in the morning grass, holidays are still treasured. They give reason to celebrate, bringing about times in which presents, family, tradition and parties reign supreme.
At the school, there is a myriad of groups that find unique ways to celebrate their holidays. Students mix good cheer with culturally diverse food, music and tradition to concoct special holiday celebrations. Here are a few of the varied types of celebration that will be enjoyed by students this year.
The classic image of Christmas is that of Santa squeezing through a chimney half his size to reward good children with gifts. Perhaps some of the holiday’s traditional meaning has been lost, as it traditionally celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Yet in spite of this, students find creative ways to celebrate Christmas, giving the holiday new cultural value.
Junior Jonathan Julio’s family celebrates by exchanging presents and performing rituals that honor the baby Jesus. His family puts a twist on the holiday, sharing traditional food such as tamales and Mexican chocolate. Jonathan’s family also enjoys Latin music during the holidays.
Other students incorporate different and special traditions into their Christmas holiday.
“Christmas in Italy serves more to symbolize the fact that God loves all,” sophomore Tommaso Carli, whose family is from northern Italy, said. “He sends the Jesus child, or Jesu Bambino, to bring presents to everyone.
Tommaso celebrates by opening presents the night before Christmas. His family believes that Jesus brings presents from the north and reaches northern Italy quickest. Thirteen days after Christmas, his family puts a large sock filled with gifts on top of the mantel to symbolize gifts given to Jesus after his birth.
Hanukkah is a holiday that Jewish students take part in during the winter months. The holiday celebrates the defeat of Seleucid forces that attempted to prevent the Israelite people from practicing Judaism centuries ago. It is characterized by its deep religious and symbolic value.
Students at the school find that the holiday is heartwarming and fun.
“Around this time of year, my family will light the Hanukkah candles together and sing, then we open a present and just spend time with each other,” sophomore Sarah Loebner said. “Since Hanukkah is eight days, we have a ton of time to just be together as a family.”
Other students who celebrate Hanukkah appreciate it not only for its traditional value, but also for the comforting spiritual feeling that it brings.
“I see Hanukkah as less of a religious holiday than a spiritual festivity,” sophomore Ariel Tabachnik said. “To spiritualize the context of it, I call my close friend who speaks Hebrew and he joins us to say a prayer just for tradition. It makes you feel warm and connected in a way you may not on a daily basis.”
During Kwanzaa, a relatively new holiday (it was established in the 1960’s) that also occurs during the winter months, students commemorate the pride they have for their African-American heritage. The holiday is not really as celebratory as it is respectful; Kwanzaa recognize and appreciates African values and community.
Dr. Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa, said on a website that “Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense.”
To both students and teachers at the school that do celebrate Kwanzaa, the holiday even has meaning beyond just cultural pride.
“[Kwanzaa] really pushes your family to think about its role in the rest of the community and the world,” English teach Michael Smith said. “It’s a family time that’s set aside to sit down together and talk face-to-face.”
The holidays are a time of eating, drinking and gift-giving, but what really makes them so meaningful is the celebration of family. With a little bit of unique culture and distinctive tradition sprinkled in, students at the school make their holidays special.