Other winter holidays overshadowed by Christmas

Illustration by Liv Nicks Turnley

Right-wing politicians in the U.S. are currently under the impression that there is what they call a “war on Christmas” backed by liberals. Apparently, to conservatives, something can be called a “war” when there are a lack of cheery Christmas characters and manger scenes on a red coffee cup. It is as if conservatives live under a rock and forget that Christmas is not celebrated by everyone, not to mention the fact that Christians are not the only ones who enjoy the holiday.

There is Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, which commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire, with a duration of eight days. This year it will last from Dec. 22 to Dec. 30. Then there is Kwanzaa, another week-long holiday that is celebrated by those of African descent which entails gift-giving and feasting. There are seven important pillars, or Nguzo Saba: Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective, Work, and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). Although these holidays are not as widely celebrated as Christmas in the U.S., they must be acknowledged and recognized.

Whenever I go into a store filled with only Christmas decorations (artificial pine trees in evergreen, gold or silver, blow-up Santas and Frostys for lawns and roofs, tinsel for wrapping around poles, lights on strings and ornaments all around) I like how festive it is and memories come to pass pop into my mind. But the Christmas decor also makes me roll my eyes because it is not representative of other winter holidays. Whenever I do see decorations for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, they are stashed in a corner and don’t get as much exposure as the Christmas items. A few weeks ago, shopping along Northwest 23rd, I caught sight of a section of the Paper Source dedicated to garlands strung with tiny menorahs, napkins in every hue of blue and other paraphernalia for the Festival of Lights. I smiled because I could see a step forward in representation. I celebrate Christmas, which is important to my faith and is a time I spend with family I see typically once a year. However, I am understanding and aware that some people do not.

Selling menorahs and kinaras alongside trees and metal reindeer are not part of the war on Christmas. They are providing an accurate depiction of our nation that should not be confined to one area in a store. Starbucks deciding to package their coffee cups in crimson or snow scenes is not a war on Christmas. It is a means to attempt not to offend anyone trying to enjoy a cup of joe. The transition from the declaration “Merry Christmas!” to “Happy holidays!” is not a war on Christmas. It is an exclamation inclusive of all the holidays celebrated.

The idea that there is a war on Christmas is absurd. Inclusivity is not an act of war; it is an act of peace. In truth, this is the commonality shared by all three of the major holidays. The traditions and origins may differ, but Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas are based in love, peace and unity, which add to the atmosphere of a season of giving. It is not about what we celebrate, but rather how we celebrate. Hopefully, we do so with joy and charity.

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