Diverse Traditions On Campus

     As the holiday season approaches, the fever of winter break rises along with it. Lights line rooftop edges and wreaths adorn every door, showing off the spirit of each family inside.

     However, with the excitement of the impending holiday season, Americans often forget that the holidays are celebrated differently from person to person, religion to religion, and from country to country.

     “[In Germany] they actually have St. Nicholas Day, so St. Nicholas will come around and he’ll fill your shoes with oranges and chocolate,” sophomore Morgan Tombarge said.

     Tombarge lived in Germany for five years before moving to Austin over the summer.

     “There’s also this evil guy named Krampus, and if you were naughty, he’ll whip you,” Tombarge said.

     While Germany celebrates Christmas in all of its grandeur with festivities drawn out over two full days, Italy also finds extravagant ways in which to celebrate.

     “It’s a really big thing, because all the family comes together and relatives that maybe are not as close,” junior Alice Massara said. “I see some relatives only on Christmas and then, for the rest of the year, I never [see] them.”

     Massara, a foreign exchange student from Italy, will experience Thanksgiving and American Christmas for the first time this year.

     “A really big thing every Italian family has on Christmas is panettone,” Massaraa said. “We have it, and it’s [a] really good dessert. It’s [a] really important tradition in Italian Christmas.”

     Not only do Christmas traditions differ throughout regions, but other holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa contrast as well.

     “I wish that they knew that every person who celebrates Hanukkah is different,” senior Julia Junker said. “The way we do it is different from other people, and for us, it’s not just about the religious aspect of it; it’s about family and coming together to light each candle every night.”

     Junker’s family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, as her mother is Jewish and her father is Christian.

     “I like the togetherness we have, because we decorate the tree every year together,” Junker said. “Usually, my dad ends up being the one who puts up the tree, and my sister and I just do all the ornaments and stuff like that.”

     While some families celebrate multiple holidays, other religions don’t participate in any specific holiday traditions.

     “Since I grew up not celebrating Christmas or anything it was kind of difficult at first when I stopped being a Jehovah’s Witness,” sophomore Aleena Ahmed said.

     Religious groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses may not take part in faction-sanctioned practices, but many followers do participate in general holiday season festivities.

     “We just spend a lot of time with the family.” Ahmed said. “We’ll go to my grandma’s house and just hang out, because even though we don’t celebrate Christmas or something specific over the holidays doesn’t mean we don’t spend them with our family.”

     Throughout the numerous religious holidays and traditional aspects of the winter season, families and individuals alike can find the joy of the holiday season across borders.

     “That’s probably my favorite part,” Junker said, “just the feel of holiday spirit.”

Written by Cady Russell

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