I grew up in a family where holidays were the most special time of the year. Our traditions brought us closer together, and made the holidays some of my favorite and happiest memories to look back on. I am so interested in learning about how others celebrate holidays, what their traditions mean to them, and how being away at school has impacted their holiday season. So, I sat down with a few Wagner students to talk about how they’ll be celebrating the upcoming holidays!
Do you usually spend Thanksgiving with your entire family, or is it more low-key?
Well, holidays have been a much bigger affair since my brother and I have been away at school these past couple of years. My family lives in Portland, and being so far away from home has been tough around the holidays. This is actually the first time in three years that I'll spend Thanksgiving with my parents. But, being here has allowed me to spend Thanksgiving with all of my other relatives who live in New York. And, on the plus side, I’ve taken advantage of being so close to the city that I’ve actually gone to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade! (Pro-tip: the best viewing spot is 81st Street and Central Park West.)
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?
Holidays in my family are simplistic but nice, and never too hectic. We always eat minestrone soup on Christmas Eve, and read The Night Before Christmas. It usually never snows in Portland, and that’s nice because we go on a nature walk as a family after we open presents on Christmas morning. I just love that my family takes it slow on holidays, and we appreciate the time we spend together above anything else.
How has being away at school impacted your holiday season?
I think the stress of school sometimes makes it harder for you to appreciate the pre-holiday season. But then, you go home and it hits you like a ton of bricks. I really like that. Even though I haven’t always spent every holiday with all of my family, I’ve still been really lucky to be around the people I love. Plus, I know Wagner offers housing and they provide a big Thanksgiving meal for people like me who do stay on campus -- which I think is really great of them to do (all free of charge).
What is Diwali and how is it celebrated?
Diwali is a Hindu celebration which is similar to Christmas, but it was celebrated this year on October 29th. It’s a festival of light where we combat darkness in our lives with light and openness. It’s a time of prayer and renewal; so we clean the house, light candles, and open the windows to let the natural breeze in to renew our homes. Then, we eat sweets and dance all night, and children receive gifts, new clothes, and money from elders.
What traditions of Diwali mean the most to you?
I love that my family comes together every year to share stories and celebrate, because it makes me feel so much closer to them and to our culture. My family shares the stories of Lord Ram and how he rescued his wife, Sita, from her kidnapper in the forest. We welcome the light that Lord Ram and Sita offered during her return, which is essentially the celebration of Diwali. Hearing and telling that story every year never gets old. Plus, we dance the night away, which is always my favorite!
How do your holiday traditions make you feel more connected to your culture?
The generous gifts I have received from elders throughout the years, and the memories I have of Diwali are a blessing. They remind me of how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much love. Celebrating Diwali at Wagner is also really special to me because we have people of all different diversities here who come together to celebrate this wonderful holiday.
What are you thankful for?
I’m thankful for good health and prosperity for myself and all of my loved ones. When I celebrate this holiday, it not only brings joy to me but it also brings joy to everyone around me. Diwali reminds us that the Gods are looking down and shedding their light on everyone here; and that makes me feel very thankful.
How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?
We celebrate it with my neighbors every year, and we rotate houses. I always watch the parade, and then we have a huge dinner and watch football. My neighbors are moving to Australia soon though, so that will make our traditions a little different. But, as long as I’m with my family, I’m happy! I’m Christian, and the holidays have always been more about religion and family to me than anything else.
Have your family traditions made you feel more connected to your Christianity?
The holidays are a really special time, and they definitely make me feel closer to my family. My Christian faith makes me appreciate the holidays in a different way because of the traditions my family and I have of going to Church, and the closeness we share because of it. I’m also a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) on campus, and so that contributes to keeping my faith strong throughout the year and near the holidays when I’m away from my family.
What is your favorite thing about being at Wagner during the holiday season?
I love that everyone is still so cheerful despite whatever stress they may feel from school and finals. I know that school may put a damper on the spirit of the Thanksgiving and holiday season at times, but I truly am thankful to be able to attend this school. It’s a privilege that not many people have; and I’m blessed to have this opportunity. I also love seeing how excited everyone gets when finals are over and they are able to go home to enjoy the holidays over winter break. It makes me feel even more excited to see my family and celebrate; I feel happy just thinking about it!
No matter what holidays you observe, they are a time to to come together, celebrate, and give thanks. I’m happy to go to a school that welcomes all holidays with open-arms: it gives me one more reason to be thankful this holiday season.