As summer gradually turns to fall, Berkeley High School students are beginning to cozy up to the holiday season, planning their Halloween costumes and perfecting Thanksgiving pie recipes. But what does the holiday season mean to students who celebrate holidays that aren’t as widely acknowledged?
When it comes to a school as diverse as BHS, the full spectrum of holidays that students celebrate must be considered when celebrating as a community. The school often holds art galleries, and cultural clubs hold events in celebration of certain cultural holidays. But we need to begin acknowledging these holidays on an even larger scale in order to eradicate the alienation or embarrassment many people may feel when participating in their cultural traditions.
Some people may argue that cultural holidays do not need more recognition and should be celebrated primarily by people of that culture in order to not subject them to appropriation. However, it is important for BHS to bring attention to the multiplicity of cultures within its community. It is often necessary for students to see representation of their cultures to connect with them fully and without shame.
This is also why it’s important to not group cultural holidays with more generally celebrated ones. It’s common to see holidays such as Halloween and Dia de los Muertos being grouped together due to overlapping dates and traditions surrounding them. Hanukkah and Christmas are also often grouped together for similar reasons. However, in reality, the holidays are completely different, and grouping them together strips them of their cultural significance.
In America, it often seems as if there are pushed expectations of what holidays to celebrate. It’s typically expected of people to celebrate Christian holidays such as Easter and Christmas. Occasionally, we are given days or weeks off for national holidays. However, national holidays are often Christian ones, predominantly celebrated by white Americans. This agenda may also cause many immigrants to abandon cultural celebrations, in exchange for American assimilation, because they do not feel their traditions are valued in American culture.
Because so much of the holiday spirit is an effect of its marketing, people who celebrate holidays like Kwanzaa or Dia de los Muertos may feel excluded from the typical holiday cheer due to their lack of marketing. A question often asked is whether the excitement of the holiday season is only a side effect of that excessive marketing, or if people’s excitement is genuine and comes from a place of nostalgia surrounding the holidays.
By bringing more attention to these cultural holidays, the goal should not be for them to receive excessive marketing, or for people to make money off of them. The goal should be to educate people about the different holidays, and for people to become more accepting of other cultures so that everyone can feel safe to celebrate in the way they want.
America’s diversity is only increasing, so why don’t we celebrate the holidays of the cultures that are now part of America? It’s time we acknowledge holidays from around the world when celebrating the holiday season.