‘Tis the season to celebrate different holiday festivities

It is the most wonderful time of the year — celebrating the holidays gives Guilfordians a lot to cheer for.

Many Guilfordians celebrate Christmas, but it is not the only Christian holiday coming up.

“The Immaculate Conception is celebrated along with Advent, which happens throughout December,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Jill Peterfeso.

Peterfeso also addressed Christmas, saying, “(Most) scholars agree that Jesus was probably born in the springtime. So why do we celebrate in December?

“(Because of) the Pagan holiday: the winter solstice,” Peterfeso said.

“The winter solstice is when the worlds of the living and dead draw closest together,” said Adam Bertling ‘13.  “It becomes easier to conduct séances, which is where I try to communicate with the spirits of loved ones.”

Another upcoming Pagan festival is Yule.

“During Yule, we get together and have a ritual to commemorate time and cast out good energy,” said Shelby Smith, junior and Pagan Mysticism Club treasurer. “It’s (when) the Pagan god is reborn and the goddess begins to rejuvenate.”

Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, typically begins during November in the Western calendar. This year, it fell right on Thanksgiving Day, which will not happen again until 2070.

“Some people (have joined) Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and called it ‘Thanksgivukkah,’” Marilyn Chandler, executive director of Greensboro Jewish Federation in North Carolina, told The Guilfordian.

Stephanie Byer, sophomore and president of Guilford College’s chapter of Hillel, was familiar with the reference.

“My cousins and I were really excited for ‘Thanksgivukkah’ and (making) pumpkin challah and sweet potato latkahs,” said Byer.

“On campus, we are celebrating with a Hanukkah party on Dec. 6, right after Shabbat.”

Akin to Hanukkah, the Hindu festival of Diwali is also celebrated as the Festival of Lights.

“Lighting lamps is symbolic of removing darkness in our life,” Chandrakant Vyas, coordinator of the Swadhyay Movement in North Carolina, told The Guilfordian in an email.  “We need to remove ignorance and lack of knowledge from life, try to understand the purpose of human life and start making efforts to accomplish that goal,” Vyas said.

One aspect common to the many festivals is an emphasis on family or community involvement.

First-year Veronica Zambrano-Coffie celebrates Carnival, a festival native to the Caribbean island of Curaçao.  Although Carnival is observed in February, it entails extensive preparation.

“In November, you start collecting the people in your group,” said Zambrano-Coffie.  “(By February) there are over ninety groups.  There’s a competition in January and a showcase for every group.”

Smith also enjoys celebrating with family during the holidays.

“Yule is a major holiday celebrated in my household,” said Smith. “It’s easier to get together with my family.”

Peterfeso expressed a similar sentiment about her family’s celebration of Christmas.

“It’s the one time of year we can count on the five of us in my family being together,” said Peterfeso.

On the other hand, first-year Ayellor Karbah, who will not celebrate Christmas with his Liberian family this year, remembers the holiday being different in Liberia.

“Here, people don’t show too much excitement during Christmas,” Karbah said. “They (celebrate) calmly and keep to themselves.”

First-year Hvung Ksor agreed.

“In Vietnam, we have more fun,” Ksor said. “Here, some people have to work or don’t have time to celebrate.”

Junior Yuki Kaneko discussed difficulties that arise in celebrating Japanese holidays in the U.S.

“Japanese holidays are often related to seasons, so celebrating in the U.S. is difficult,” Kaneko said. “(Also), the Japanese usually celebrate by eating Japanese food, which we are usually unable to prepare here.”

No matter what festivals you celebrate, many would argue that it is always nice to enjoy the holiday season with the Guilford community.