by Ava-Ray Pributsky, Mariia Grigoreva and Desmond Devine
As we prepare to celebrate the holidays, it’s wonderful to recognize the diversity of winter celebrations: Hanukkah, Advent, Las Posadas, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, the New Year, Epiphany/Three Kings Day. So many ways to celebrate and honor traditions and cultures from around the world and through a large expanse of history. Here are a few of the ways some of these holidays are celebrated by our Journalism Club students.
Mariia’s Holiday Traditions:
Very soon, more than 2 billion people will be celebrating Christmas. Some honor it as a religious holiday, while many more will celebrate it even if they are not Christian. Here are my family’s holiday traditions:
In most families in Russia, Christmas is actually celebrated on January 7th, because this is the date considered to be Christmas by Orthodox Christians, who use the Julian calendar, which predates the modern Gregorian calendar. However many families, including mine, combine it with the New Year holiday and celebrate them both on one day, December 31st.
Around 3 weeks before Christmas, we decorate the Christmas tree. We put many candies on the tree as decorations and every day before Christmas, we can eat one. If not all of them are gone, we eat what’s left on New Year’s Eve night.
In my family, we like to change the menu, but there are two common salads that we always eat on New Year and Christmas: “Olivie Salad” and “Herring under a Fur Coat”
Olivie Salad Recipe:
2 medium carrot
1 chicken breast
1 can of peas
5 salted cucumbers
Bake the chicken (30min on 350 degrees), Cook and cut eggs, carrots and potatoes into large dice. After the chicken has cooled somewhat, cut into large chunks. Chop up the rest of the ingredients and mix all together. Add mayo and your perfect salad is ready to eat.
Note: usually served cold, so put in the fridge before you eat it.
While my sister, my mother, and I prepare food, we usually have 2 very old movies playing, which we watch every single year: The Irony of Fate and Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future.
On the 31st of December, while the clock is striking 12 am, the adults make a wish. They write it on paper, burn it into a glass with champagne, and drink. Some just make a wish and drink, but everything has to be done while the clock is striking midnight. That is an important part of the tradition.
After everyone eats, we call all our relatives and give our best wishes for the New Year. Afterwards, we open the presents and listen to Christmas/New Year songs. In my family, we don’t wait until morning and open our presents around 1am.
Ava-Ray’s Holiday Traditions:
Decorate the House:
In my family, we celebrate Hanukkah, but we also put up a winter tree with lights and ornaments. Many of the ornaments are handmade. Each year we make a new ornament to represent the year. What should it be for this year? Maybe a mask or a vaccine syringe?
Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows:
A mashed sweet potato with butter and maple syrup topped with melted marshmallows. This is what my Grandmother and her mother made during Thanksgiving and the winter holidays every year. It reminds me of sitting with my family at the table, being together and eating wonderful food. This dish is very sweet and is often served as dessert in my household. A sweet dish to remind me of sweet memories.
Lighting the Menorah:
Every year in my family, we light the Menorah and say the prayers of Hanukkah. My dad tells the story of how the Jewish people did not have enough oil to light their temple lights because the temple had been raided and ransacked. They found only a small amount of oil in the rubble. They thought it would only last for a day or two, but it lasted 8 full nights. That is the Hanukkah miracle, that there was light during the darkness, during the pain. We have latkes and corned beef sandwiches and then we get our Hanukkah gifts. The holiday is about comfort, good food, and games. We each try and think of our reasons to be thankful and how we have made it to this Hanukkah.
Latkes and Applesauce:
Savory potato pancakes (almost like hash browns) with sweet apple sauce on top. When I was really little, my favorite part of Hanukkah was the latkes. Savory, buttery, potato goodness with sweet applesauce for dinner? Yum! My family would gobble down 3 latkes each at the very least. I would stuff my face with yummy food until I could not eat any more and then sit down on the couch and fall asleep.
Baba’s Latke Recipe:
6 large potatoes, grated
1 large onion, grated
2 eggs, well beaten
2 tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
A pinch of pepper
4 tablespoons of oil
Peel the potatoes and onions. Grate potatoes and onions or use a Cuisinart and drain the extra juice. Add eggs, flour, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Heat oil in a large skillet and drop the batter in by spoonful. Fry to a deep brown on both sides. Serve with applesauce, sour cream, or vanilla yogurt. Geschmack! (Yiddish for licking the plate goodness!)
Prayer on the first night of Hanukkah: Praised are you, our God, ruler of the universe, who has given us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season. I am so thankful to be with my family on this Hanukkah. I know there are many people across the country and around the world, including in my own family, who have not made it to this Hanukkah. I think about them and say a prayer for them.
Have you ever wondered why our calendar is the way it is? Why certain holidays are recognized on specific days? Sure, Christmas was the day Jesus was said to have been born and the 4th of July is the day America declared its independence, but what about the other ones? Is there any deeper reason why holidays are celebrated at a certain time in the year other than “tradition”? Let’s consider the celebration of the New Year and my proposal for a more scientific and seasonally accurate date for the holiday.
Our calendar, along with many other aspects of our culture, stems from Roman civilization. On December 31st, Romans would have a feast and celebrate Janus, the god of new beginnings. He was said to have two faces, one looking to the past and the other towards the future. This evolved into our New Year celebration today, but to be honest it doesn’t make much rational sense and feels a bit arbitrary as a date to start the year. A more practical celebration would be on Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, since this is when our days start to become longer again and the seasonal cycle of Earth resets. Recognizing Winter Solstice as New Year’s Day would give the holiday an astronomical purpose and might make us more mindful towards the cyclical nature of our solar system.
[Roman God Janus]
Whichever holidays you and your family celebrate and however you celebrate them, we are all so happy for our health, our family’s health, making it through the 2020 Fall semester of The Science Academy, and the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines. We wish good health and happiness to all, and look forward to a very happy, hopeful, and healthy New Year!