Holiday cheer

Holiday+cheer

Art by Bridget Halliday

Neya Thanikachalam, Editor-in-chief

My neighbors to the right, left, across and behind are all Christian. In fact, I’m fairly certain that everyone on my street except for my family and one a few doors down are Christian too. So it’s no surprise that come Christmastime wreaths adorn doors, lights twinkle on shrubbery and Christmas trees stand sentry in front of windows.

And it does look a little odd when there’s a row of decorated houses and there’s that one house that’s got no lights whatsoever. Kind of like a sore thumb.

I just want to clarify — my house is not one of those houses. Because we’ve adopted Christmas. Our house looks just like one of those houses you see in snowglobes. So much that if my family doesn’t have our decorations up by a certain time I get teased by my friends. 

“Where’s your tree, Neya?” they ask. “Did you forget that December’s on the calendar?” 

And when they come into my house they always notice the stockings that my brother and I manage to hang precariously over the fireplace, the ones that my cousins painted our names on when we were too young to remember.

On Christmas morning, there are always presents for us to open, wrapped and labeled with my mother’s scrawling handwriting.

Once more, for your benefit, I’ll say that I’m not Christian. And, yes, I do know. For sure.

I see my mother every year, scrolling through holiday card templates, ruling out the ones that say “Merry Christmas!” and opting for a more general “Happy Holidays!” or “Happy New Year!”

I celebrate Diwali, better known as the Festival of Lights, or as I like to put it, the token Indian holiday, every Novemberish (the date changes every year). And Pongal, which is basically the equivalent of Thanksgiving, and
Tamil New Year too. 

I will always love Christmas, despite my family’s reluctance to declare that we celebrate it to the public. I made wish lists and “mailed” them to the North Pole. I set out cookies for Santa (still do — I have a lot of younger cousins). I listen to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving and then play songs repeatedly until Christmas Eve (and sometimes a little after then too).

And it’s not just me. All of my family that is scattered throughout the U.S. celebrates Christmas. And I know this because we all spend Christmas at a different relative’s house each year, the locations of which range from Michigan to Georgia.

Christmas celebrations within my family have been going on since before I was born. And I don’t think that the religion that I practice should affect that.

I live for hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows, Christmas music and anything peppermint flavored (hot chocolate included). I’m actually listening to Christmas carols right now, as I write this. And if I told someone that, then they’d just think that I was a little too possessed by the Christmas spirit. And I’m OK with that.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone else is like me. 

And I think that while we should have the freedom to celebrate whatever holiday we wish when out on our own, public spaces and learning environments like school should not just place emphasis on one holiday because it’s more common.

Yes, Christianity is the most commonly practiced religion in Naperville. And the U.S. And the world, as stated by Pew Research. 

According to bestplaces.net, about 72 percent of people in Naperville practice a religion. And of those people, 63 percent are Christian.

There’s still a large chunk of people who either don’t practice a religion or aren’t Christian. That makes it all the more important that decorations don’t discriminate against any religions.

Something that seems as trivial as what we put on our holiday card is what makes a difference.

I was talking to one of the librarians at Central, and he was telling me about how one girl came up to him, excited that for the first time, Central had properly represented the religion that she practiced in their decorations. The girl was Jewish.

I think Central does a good job of exposing students to religions and cultures other than those that are most prevalent in Naperville. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to be done, both locally and on a larger scale.

The United States proudly declares itself a melting pot — a mixture of ethnicities, cultures and traditions. And our holiday celebrations should reflect that.