Conjuring Up The Holiday Spirit

Christmas break is a fun and exciting time for many students where many different holidays are celebrated.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Eleanor Chin

Jingle bells, Christmas trees, mistletoes, menorahs, and kinaras. These are all synonymous with the holidays whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday entirely. But even if you don’t celebrate them, winter break is nearly here, allowing students to rejuvenate from the stress of school. As the break approaches, students are looking forward to free time and overdosing on sleep without any fear of hearing the alarm in the morning and the school bell ringing. The only bells that we will be hearing are jingle bells.

For all these traditional emblems of the holidays –menorahs, bells, reindeer, and Santa Claus– there is something very atypical going on this year, too, and that is COVID, the uninvited guest to the holiday celebration. Junior Daniel Yentin, who celebrates Hanukkah wrote in an e-mail interview, “before Covid-19, we would meet up with a bunch of other families who we knew, and had a big get together in the evening with lots of food and music.” Since immunity to the virus varies, especially with those with compromised immune systems, family traditions of meeting with elderly loved ones are usually avoided nowadays. Yentin continues, “Because of Covid-19, we were not able to have any get togethers so we simply celebrated at home.”

Junior Subha Bhuiyan continues this sentiment with, “ During COVID, our relatives that live nearby came to visit as normal but relatives living farther away don’t have that privilege, so we weren’t able to see them, nor were we allowed to have more than two family members over to make sure we didn’t go over the recommended minimum of people per house recommended by the CDC.”

Winter break is also a time for vacation. Usually, students flee the bitter cold of the northeast for sunnier getaways in islands or perhaps to another destination within the U.S. Junior Bernadette Baroi, for instance, was planning a trip to upstate New York, however she is now hesitant due to COVID. “I was planning to go out of state, but I’m not going because of the new variant,” Baroi said. Though disappointed about the cancellation of her plans, Baroi is focused on fostering her and her family's more local traditions. “We go around and take the car to see the decorated houses since most of the houses in Rockaway are decorated. It definitely slowed down during the pandemic, but three years ago, it was so pretty,” she said.

Some traditions still remain. As a Christian, Baroi attends church and spends time with family, in fact, her Christmas Eve and Christmas are spent in majority at her local church. “We wake up in the morning [on Christmas Eve and Christmas] and go to church where we pray, sing and worship,” she said.

Food and family, two things the holidays are not complete without. “Everyone has different traditions,” Bhuiyan mentioned. “One of my family’s traditions for the holidays is that each of my family members makes their own dish for everyone else to eat. I love how we each get to make our favorite food and share it with everyone else to also appreciate [it].” Similarly, Baroi said, “We celebrate Christmas Eve where we go to someone’s house. We do potluck, where every family brings something. We pray on Christmas Eve first and celebrate at night…We just go out to a place or something to eat.” Baroi thoroughly enjoys her time with her family, she mentioned the bond she shared with her fellow Generation Z family and family friends, is unbreakable thanks to the shared knowledge of TikTok and pop culture icons like Taylor Swift.

Each family may have their own unique traditions in which they prepare an all-time favorite dish. Yentin shares that latkes are his favorite holiday treat: “Definitely latkes, they go great together with sour cream, honey, and really anything you can think of. The sufganiyot are also a nice treat.”

Even for people who do not celebrate the holidays, winter break provides a great opportunity for bonding with friends and family. “For me, the holidays are a time for relaxing, catching up with friends and family, and not looking at any of my schoolwork,” junior Alena Chen said. While she does not celebrate Christmas, Chen has made gift-giving a tradition by partaking in “Secret Santa” groups with her friends and sports team. Chen hopes to spend a lot of time and make memories with her friends.“A bunch of my friends who moved away are coming back over break, so I’m definitely going to catch up with them,” she added. In addition, Chen plans to spend time with her sister, who will be returning from college. She also has several activities in mind, all of which are fitting for the winter season. “I also want to go ice skating, have some sleepovers, watch some Christmas movies, and decorate gingerbread houses with friends,” shares Chen. Although Chen does not celebrate a particular holiday, winter break is a time for her to celebrate her friendships and family, which is the essence of the holiday season.

As the nights become longer and colder, every day we become one day closer to the start of the holidays. In fact, the holiday season is already here with the beautiful decorations in Manhattan and in all of our local neighborhoods. It does not matter how or which way you celebrate or do not celebrate a particular holiday, all that matters is having uplifting spirits and spreading extra love and warmth.