Redeat Getachew '23
In my opinion, the holiday season is the best part of the year. Spending time with family, decorating the Christmas tree, and listening to holiday music are some of my favorite parts of the season. But for me, the holiday season wasn't always like this. I was born in Ethiopia, all the way in Africa where Christmas was celebrated differently. My move from Ethiopia to the United States forced me to handle two distinct cultures and Christmas was one part of it.
Ethiopia was very different during Christmas time. The very first thing I remember being different was the lack of care for Santa Claus. Of course, I knew who he was, but it wasn't as much of a big deal as it is here in the US. I vaguely remember taking a picture with a Santa Claus that came to my school but that was it. He wasn't a threat that my parents held over my head to be good nor was he the one who brought us the gifts. In fact, presents were not a thing. I know, shocker, but it's true. Presents were never a thing. Christmas in Ethiopia is first celebrated by going to Church. We wake up early and put on our all-white traditional clothes and make our way there. Spending time with those around me after Church was what my little toddler mind thought was the best part of the season. This is when family, friends, and neighbors come to our house to celebrate with us. Mouthwatering food is lined up on the table, and coffee is served for the adults. Doro Wat is my favorite food to eat during this time; it's like a stew with chicken, eggs and lots of onions, I highly recommend that people try it. Hanging out with family and friends and eating so many delicious foods were traditions that my family had when we were in Ethiopia.
In 2012, I moved from Ethiopia to the US. My six-year-old mind couldn't wrap my head around the fact I was moving halfway across the world to the place that I only saw on TV. Christmas was very different here; I was surprised to see the bright lights covering up houses and the Christmas trees everywhere. Even more than that, I was surprised by the concept of presents. Moving to the US gave my family and me a chance to combine our old Ethiopian traditions with American ones to make new traditions. My family still goes to Church on Christmas day and we still cook our favorite Ethiopian meals but on top of that, we've added new things. For example, my family has taken to going to the giant Christmas tree at the National Mall and taking pictures there. Despite the freezing weather, we walk around at night enjoying the lights and the Christmas spirit. We also spend time together decorating the Christmas tree that stands in the corner of our living room.
Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year and the traditions that I have cultivated with my family is one of the reasons why. Just like Yochi Hobson '23 says, "Traditions are important because it brings a family together... you are bonding over something." My holiday traditions have changed and adapted over the years and it seems like they will be changing once again due to COVID-19 this year, too.
Yenna Chong '23
As the holiday season is upon us, most of us are thinking about how winter break is going to look this year, as COVID-19 cases are continuously increasing and travelling becomes more and more dangerous. For most people, the holidays typically include festive parties with friends, celebrations, family meals, gift-giving, and traveling, but the pandemic is affecting the holidays the same way it did this past spring, summer, and fall. Winter break is going to look very different because we are still recommended to stay home, social distance, and avoid large gatherings. Holiday parties and family dinners will be over Zoom, gifts will be shipped to the recipient’s home as opposed to being given in person, and vacation will be minimal. Thus, many of our traditional holiday activities will be modified for everyone’s health and safety.
With the frigid, windy weather, the gray skies, and the short daylight, in addition to the dreadfulness of almost an entire year with COVID-19, the holiday spirits are much lower than they have been in past years. Sigrid Drefke ‘23 says, “I think that holiday spirits are a little lower this year because [people] aren’t able to celebrate the holidays with their friends in the same ways... they normally would. I also think that [it] generally increases when there are more people, as the holiday spirit of a group feeds off of the collective energy, and being... far apart, small groups [limit] the amount that that energy can grow.” In sum, the coronavirus is preventing us from being as excited for the holidays as we normally would be.
Additionally, these three weeks of school until the holidays seem like the longest three weeks ever, because teachers try to squeeze in as much work as they can before the end of the semester. This always causes lots of stress amongst the students, but the hybrid plan makes it worse, thus affecting holiday excitement as well. Once winter break begins, I believe that people will have more anticipation because there is no stressful schoolwork. The holidays will still be a time for mental relaxation and disconnection from anything school-related, regardless of the effects of the pandemic.
In my family, we do not have very festive and traditional holiday gatherings, so one of my favorite holiday events is the Lessons and Carols service at the Cathedral. Throughout lower and middle school, I remember having to sit inside the Cathedral for what seemed like forever, watching performances and listening to speeches and blessings. Regarding content, it was not boring, but because we would have to sit hours on end, not knowing when it was going to end, it was challenging to focus. Consequently, lower and middle school me thought that it was the most boring service of the entire year.
As I have gotten older, I have begun to appreciate this beautiful Close tradition. I now admire the beautiful Christmas decorations, the several eye-catching performances, graceful Christmas music, and the lessons are interesting as well. Unfortunately, like everything else, the pandemic is forcing this service to be over Zoom this year, and there will be no captivating in-person experience inside the crowded Cathedral. Large events like this are what make the holiday season so special and it is upsetting to know that we are missing out on these experiences.
Despite having different holiday plans, this time provides us with an opportunity to appreciate the little things that we take for granted every day and to spend time with family at home. Although holiday spirits are low right now, we can still discover new ways to spread the holiday cheer with each other and find new family activities that make us happy.
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