by Milan Riley and Ava-Ray Pributsky
Easter is a Christian festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, the religion’s prophet. Easter is considered a “movable feast,” meaning it doesn’t occur on the same day every year. However, it is always observed between March 22 and April 25. In 2022, Easter occurred on Sunday, April 17.
Jesus Christ was a Jewish preacher and religious leader whose teachings started Christianity. Scholars estimate Jesus died between AD 30 and AD 36. According to the New Testament, Jesus died from crucifixion by the Romans in Golgotha, a place close to Jerusalem. Christians believe Jesus resurrected three days after he died on the cross. It is thought that Jesus died on Friday, now celebrated as Good Friday, and was resurrected, or returned to life, on Sunday, now celebrated as Easter.
Though Christians most likely commemorated this day earlier, the first recorded observance of Easter was in the mid-2nd century. Early Christians called this event the festival of Pascha.
One of many depictions of Jesus Christ
One common tradition of Easter is a feast. In addition, many individuals color and hide eggs for an egg hunt or give away baskets. This is because the egg symbolizes life; therefore, it has become a well-known symbol of Easter and Jesus’ resurrection that opposed death.
Practicing Christians go to church for Sunday worship as usual on Easter. Families listen to Easter music and share a special meal for the holy day.
Decorated eggs for Easter activities
Passover, or Pesach, is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the story of how the Israelites escaped Egypt. This holiday is celebrated once a year and lasts for seven days. On Passover, families will hold a special meal called a seder. In English, “seder” means order. Each food that is served at the seder symbolizes a certain aspect of the holiday. At the seder, families recite prayers and blessings from the Haggadah, the book of the Exodus.
The Seder Plate
The Story of Passover
Passover is the story of the Israelites and how they escaped slavery. The story begins around 1200 B.C, when the Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, worries that the Jews will outnumber the Egyptians. He forces them into slavery and commands every Jewish boy born to be drowned in the Nile. One baby, Moses, is cast into the Nila, saved and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. When Moses gets older, he is told by God to command the Pharaoh to free the Jewish people. As a way to convince the Pharaoh, God sends to Egypt a set of Ten Plagues.
These plagues include the Nile turning to blood, frogs covering the land, the dust turning to gnats, and flies filling the houses and land. Every time one of the plagues would rain down upon Egypt, the Pharaoh would promise to free the Israelites, but every time God took the plague away, Pharaoh would change his mind again.
During the tenth and final plague, Pharaoh decides to finally free the Jews. While they are running away, however, he changes his mind, resulting in a wild chase involving the parting of the Red Sea and the drowning of the persuing Egyptian soldiers; eventually, the Jews return to the sacred land of Israel.
The Passover Seder
During the Passover Seder, we set out different foods that symbolize different parts of the Exodus. Five foods are placed on the table: shank bone, egg, bitter herbs, parsley in saltwater, haroset (or charoset, which is a mixture of apples, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and wine), and matzah. The shank bone represents the tenth plague on Egypt when all the firstborn Egyptian sons were killed. The egg represents the cycle of rebirth and renewal, and the cracked shell represents sacrificial offerings. The bitter herbs represent the bitter suffering of the Israelites while in slavery. The parsley in salt water represents all of the tears and pain that the Israelites experienced in Egypt. The haroset, or charoset, represents the mortar and brick used by Israelite slaves to build the pyramids and other buildings. The matzah represents how the Israelites did not have time to leaven their bread as they were escaping Egypt, so they had flat unleavened bread.
My Family’s Traditions
During Passover, my family likes to get together and have a huge seder. We sit together and connect, and we cook together. Some of the food that we eat during Passover include gefilte fish, matzah ball soup, matzah brei, and brisket. After we eat, the adults hide the afikomen. The afikomen is the middle piece of matzah that you hide, and if the children find it then they get a prize. I always find the afikomen because my parents always hide it in the same three places. My father always tells the story of how my grandfather would hide the afikomen in the strangest places. One time he hid it in the VCR!Read More
by Jordin Lim
Saint Patrick’s Day, well known for clever leprechaun-catching and for pinching those not wearing green, has an interesting history and fascinating traditions. Saint Patrick’s Day traditionally takes place on March 17th, but how did this day come to be?
The Origins of Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick is one of Christianity’s most widely known figures. Born in Roman Britain and alive during the fifth century, Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and its national apostle.
After being kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders who had been attacking his family’s estate, he was brought to Ireland at age 16, where he spent six years in captivity. During this time in captivity, Patrick worked as a shepherd, away from people. His feelings of loneliness and fear caused him to turn to religion as a sort of consolation, eventually becoming a devout Christian. According to his writings, Patrick escaped after he had heard the voice of God telling him to leave Ireland. Upon his return to Britain, Patrick is said to have experienced another revelation, one of an angel telling him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Upon his return to Ireland, he is said to have brought Christianity to its people.
The mythology of Saint Patrick’s life is deeply ingrained in Irish culture. Perhaps the best known legend of Saint Patrick is his explanation of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with the usage of the three leaves of the shamrock, a native Irish clover. Another well known legend regarding Saint Patrick was that of him driving snakes out of Ireland by chasing them into the sea, until they began attacking him during a 40-day fast he undertook while atop a hill. Saint Patrick also used bonfires to celebrate Easter, since the Irish were used to celebrating their gods with fires. The Celtic cross was created when Patrick superimposed a sun onto the Christian cross, so that reverence of the new symbol seemed more natural to the Irish people.
Although Saint Patrick is known for being the patron saint of Ireland, he was never canonized, or made a saint, by the Catholic Church, simply due to the era he lived in: during the first millennium, no formal canonization process was present in the Catholic Church. However, as he helped spread Christianity throughout Ireland, Patrick was proclaimed to be a saint due to popular acclaim rather than an official proceeding.
By the time of his death, said to have been on March 17, 461, Saint Patrick had established monasteries, missionaries, and churches. Therefore, his religious service is commemorated on March 17th every year. In general, Saint Patrick’s Day is the global celebration of Irish culture, particularly remembering Saint Patrick. This day is celebrated in most countries with people of Irish descent.
Saint Patrick’s Day Traditions
There are several traditions that are associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. There are also some that are carried out to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.
The Shamrock: The shamrock, also called the “seamory” by the Celts, is well known for being associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. It was a sacred plant in ancient Ireland due to the fact that it represented the rebirth of spring. The shamrock eventually became the symbol of emerging Irish nationalism during the 17th century. As the English began conquering Irish land, many Irish people began to wear the shamrock as a symbol of their pride and heritage.
Music: Music, in general, has been associated with Saint Patrick’s Day and Irish culture. The Celts had an oral culture, in which their religion, legends, and history were passed down by stories and songs. After being conquered by the English, the Irish turned to music to allow them to remember important events and to hold onto their history and heritage. However, music was then outlawed by the English. Today, traditional Irish bands use the same instruments that have been used for centuries, such as the fiddle, bagpipe, and the tin whistle.
The Snake: As previously mentioned, Saint Patrick was fabled to have driven snakes out of Ireland, only to be attacked by them during a 40-day fast he carried out on a hill. However, the island nation was never home to any snakes. The “banishing of snakes” was a metaphor for the removal of pagan ideology and the success of Christianity.
Food: During the celebrations of Saint Patrick’s Day, traditional Irish foods such as corned beef and cabbage are plentiful.
Leprechauns: The most renowned icon of Saint Patrick’s Day is most likely the leprechaun, figures of folklore who were believed to have come from the Celtic beliefs in fairies. In Celtic folklore, leprechauns were said to be cranky souls who were responsible for mending the shoes of other fairies. They were well known for trickery, often used to protect their much-fabled treasure. Many people dress up as leprechauns on St Patrick’s Day.Read More
by Desmond Devine
Lunar New Year is celebrated by many cultures, including the Chinese New Year, and it begins with the first new moon of the year and ends with the full moon that occurs about fifteen days after the new moon. Every Lunar New Year is represented with one of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, each representing different personality traits. The signs repeat in a twelve year cycle. Each animal is also given the properties of one of five elements: earth, fire, metal, water, and wood. Each cycle of signs is given its own element, and the cycle of elements repeats itself every five sign cycles. This year is the year of the Water Tiger. The Water Tiger represents courage, strength, and the forces of good.
Chinese New Year
It is believed that Chinese New Year has been celebrated since the 14th century B.C., during the time of the Shang Dynasty. Around 100 B.C. was when the tradition of doing rituals on Chinese New Year began. The rituals served to honor the gods in hopes of a good harvest. The Chinese government led under Communist leader Mao Zedong ceased celebration of Chinese New Year in 1949. Towards the end of the 20th century, the government became more open to Chinese New Year celebrations and gave people a week off during a period known as the Spring Festival. Today people celebrate by being with their families, giving money to others in red envelopes, and eating traditional foods such as fish, dumplings, moon cakes, and rice ball soup. At the end of the celebration, the Lantern Festival occurs in which people light colorful lanterns to decorate their homes as well as participating in games, parades, and dances. Firework displays also celebrate the end of the Spring Festival. The lighting and letting go of the lanterns symbolizes letting go of people’s past transgressions.
Vietnamese New Year
Vietnam’s Lunar New Year is known as Tet Nguyen Dan and usually shortened to just “Tet”. It spans 5-7 days, beginning on the same day as Chinese New Year, and also marks the beginning of Spring. During this time, Vietnamese people give reverence to their ancestors and hold family reunions. People are mindful, believing that what they do during Tet will affect the rest of the year. Before Tet, families clean and decorate their homes, family shrines, and the graves of deceased family members. People light incense and leave offerings of fruit and flowers on the shrines along with pictures of ancestors, similar to the traditions of Día de los Muertos in Mexico. Traditional foods are enjoyed, such as banh chung, a ball of rice filled with meat or bean paste and wrapped in banana leaves, and xoi, Vietnamese sticky rice.
A picture of a dragon dance
Korean New Year
In Korea, Lunar New Year is known as Seollal and is celebrated similarly to Chinese New Year. When Japan annexed Korea from 1910 to 1945, Lunar New Year was officially stopped. Celebrations made a comeback in 1989, and the day of celebration shifted to occur based on the lunar calendar. Families participate in a ritual in which reverence is given to ancestors and the elderly. In both North and South Korea, traditional dishes include sliced rice cake soup, which marks a person’s Lunar Calendar Birthday upon consumption. Games are played, such as Yut Nori, a relay race where players move depending on how they throw colored sticks, which function similarly to dice.
A bowl of rice cake soup
Mongolian New Year
Lunar New Year is known as Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia and shares many characteristics with Chinese New Year. For example, it uses the same zodiac as China to name new years. It was created in 1206 under the rule of Chinggis Khan. On Bituun, the evening of the day before Lunar New Year begins, families gather at the home of the oldest member to have a feast and play games. On the first day, before the sun rises, people make milk tea and visit their elders. Traditional meals eaten during Tsagaan Sar include buuz, dumplings filled with minced beef or lamb, and ul boov, long biscuits stacked on plates. Since Tsagaan Sar feasts are large, families have to start cooking them days in advance.
A traditional Tsagaan Sar greeting, in which a person greets an old relative by placing their hands below the other’s arms and saying “Amar baina uu”, meaning, “How are you?”
Tibetan New Year
In Tibet, New Year is known as Losar and takes place on December 29th on the Tibetan lunar calendar. Celebrations last two weeks. It was created after the marriage of Princess Wencheng of Han and the King of Tibet, Songtsan Gampo in 641 AD, which united the two nations. In the streets people sing and perform dances and act out battles. The two days before the new year are called “Gutor”. On the first day, families clean their homes. On the second day, people perform religious ceremonies and give to charity. On the first day of New Year, families come together for a reunion dinner and give each other presents. On the second day, families visit their friends and relatives. On the third day, families visit monasteries and hang prayer flags on the tops of houses and along mountains. A traditional food eaten during Losar is guthuk, a soup with dumplings. The ingredients the chef puts in a person’s dumplings is a playful commentary on their personality.
by Milan Riley
Black History Month is a national occasion celebrated during the month of February. This is a time to appreciate authors, inventors, political figures, scientists, and cultural leaders of African descent for their important contributions. The observance first began in the United States on January 2, 1970 and has been annually observed ever since. In addition, it is celebrated in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The Origin of Black History Month
The roots of Black History Month began with African American History Week. Historian Carter G. Woodson organized the first African American History Week in the second week of February to commemorate the achievements of Black Americans. He choose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who both contributed so much to the emancipation of African Americans. The event inspired schools and communities nationwide to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs, and host performances and lectures. Though the event transformed into Black History Month in 1970, it wasn’t official until 1976, when President Gerald Ford first recognized the observance.
Carter G. Woodson
Celebrated Individuals in Black History
Notable African American Figures
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was an activist and peaceful protester for African American rights during the 1950’s and 60’s. As a Baptist minister, Martin Luther King Jr. also led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was born on January 15, 1929 and was assassinated on April 4, 1968 after delivering his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” the preceding day. King’s most famous speech was made on August 28, 1963, called “I Have a Dream.” Martin Luther King, Jr. greatly contributed to the end of segregation through his support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Martin Luther King. Jr delivering “I Have a Dream”
Rosa Parks was an American civil rights activist best known for her role in the Montgomery bus boycott. She initiated the movement by refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955, thereby helping to end segregation in public transportation. Rosa was born on February 4, 1913, and died on October 24, 2005. She received many awards such as the Congressional Gold Medal, Spingarn Medal, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rosa Parks on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama
Born in 1924, Shirley Chisholm ran for New York State Assembly in 1964 and became the first African American congresswoman when she was elected in 1968. Shirley continued to serve from 1969 to 1983 before becoming the first African American of a major political party to run for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination. Her well-known campaign slogan was “Unbought and Unbossed.” Of her legacy, Chisholm said, “I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.”
Rep. Shirley Chisholm
John Baxter Taylor, Jr.
Born on November 3, 1882, John Taylor was a record-setting athlete in track and field before he died on December 2, 1908. As a quarter-miler for his college, John set a world record of 49.1 seconds for the 440-yards in 1903. In 1907, John set a new record of 48.6 seconds in the same event and became the indoor champion for 600 yards. A year later, John Taylor became the first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal after participating in the 1908 Summer Olympics Men’s medley relay.
John Baxter Taylor, Jr.
Hattie McDaniel started her entertainment career as a band vocalist in the 1910s and later debuted as an actress in The Golden West (1932). She was born on June 10, 1893 and died on October 26, 1952. Hattie was best known for her role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind (1939). Her performance earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress that same year, making her the first African American to win an Oscar.
Hattie McDaniel receiving an Oscar
Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. is an American aerospace engineer, retired U.S Air Officer and fighter pilot, as well as a former NASA astronaut. Guion was born on November 22, 1942, and is currently 79 years old. He flew 144 combat missions during the Vietnam war and was one of the 10,000 applicants selected by NASA’s competition to become space shuttle astronauts. On August 30, 1983, he became a crew member of the STS-8 mission and the first African American to go to space. Afterwards, Guion completed missions STS-61A, STS-39, and his last journey, STS-53, on December 2, 1992. Guion was awarded the Air Medal and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.
Guion Bluford in spaceRead More
by Julia Shin
As Edith Lovejoy Pierce, a 20th century poet, once said, “We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” Many people look forward to the new year and are excited for New Year’s Eve, a famous celebration, on December 31st. Many people attend New Year’s Eve parties where people eat, drink, and spend time with friends and family. In hopes of a good new year with good health, happiness, and prosperity, many countries have unique and fun New Year’s Eve traditions. Some unique traditions around the world include smashing plates and throwing white flowers into the ocean.
1. Denmark: Smashing Plates
If you visit Denmark on New Year’s Eve, you may be surprised to see smashed china at people’s front doors yet Danes find pride in broken dishes at their front door. In fact, the bigger pile of dishes in front of your house indicates more luck you will have in the upcoming year! A popular Danish tradition is to throw china at your friends’ and neighbors’ front doors. Many unused plates are saved for this unusual occasion. Smashing china, particularly plates, leaves behind any hostility or ill feelings before the new year.
2. Brazil: Throwing white flowers into the ocean & wearing colorful underwear.
White represents peace and, for this reason, white is incorporated into New Year’s Eve traditions in Brazil. For example, white is worn on New Year’s Eve and white flowers and candles are thrown into the ocean. Throwing flowers and candles are offerings given to Yemoja, the African Goddess of the Ocean (who is honored in both Brazil and Africa). These offerings are given in hope of a good new year. Although people in Brazil may wear white, they are still colorful! On New Year’s Eve, people’s underwear should be new and colorful. Different colors of underwear have different meanings. For example, yellow represents wealth, white means peace, pink indicates love, and red represents passion.
3. Spain: Eating grapes in hopes of a good new year.
When the bell strikes midnight, Spaniards will eat exactly 12 grapes, one grape at each of the 12 bell strikes after midnight. Losing count of how many grapes are eaten or bell strikes means bad luck. This tradition began in the 1800s when vine growers created this tradition to sell more grapes near the end of the year. However, this tradition became more popular and was later cemented as a yearly tradition. Therefore, supermarkets and street vendors sell little plastic bags of 12 grapes to sell to locals. Spaniards hope this tradition will bring a year of good fortune and success.
4. Czech Republic: Cutting Apples
An apple is cut on New Year’s Eve which determines everyone’s fate nearby. When cut, if the apple’s core looks like a star, everyone will gain happiness and health. However, if the core looks like a cross, then bad things are expected to come. For example, someone may fall ill at the New Year’s party.
So while many of you are familiar with the tradition of watching the ball drop in Times Square, enjoying the Rose Parade on New Year’s Day, and making resolutions for the new year, perhaps consider incorporating some of these fun traditions into your celebration next year!Read More
by Milan Riley
Thanksgiving is a national holiday celebrated in multiple countries around the world as it marks the end of the autumn season and shows gratitude for the fall harvest. Different countries have traditions and dates that vary for this occasion, but most are very similar. The majority of individuals that participate in Thanksgiving spend this time with their families and have a large feast. Some places that recognize the holiday, or have an event with a related concept, are the United States of America, Canada, Liberia, and Norfolk Island, which all have nearly identical customs for Thanksgiving. In addition, Germany, Grenada, China, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam all have their own unique traditions for their harvest celebration.
Thanksgiving in America
In the United States, the traditions that evolved for Thanksgiving Day originated 400 years ago in 1621. It began when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag, a local tribe of Native Americans, shared a feast to commemorate the colonists’ first successful harvest, which involved three days of rejoicing. It was the Native Americans who showed them how to survive the harsh winter, resulting in an alliance that lasted 50 years. In 1863, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln announced that Thanksgiving Day should be held on the last Thursday of November throughout the nation. However, this was altered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed a bill in 1941, moving the occasion and decreeing that Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year.
For the holiday, American households often gather with friends and family and enjoy a large meal, usually with turkey as the main dish. Pumpkin pie, stuffing, and mashed potatoes may be present as other traditional dishes. It is also common for individuals to volunteer on this day; food drives and free dinners are frequently hosted by communities. Parades, such as New York City’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, feature large character-shaped balloons, performers, and bands. These capture lots of attention as millions of people come to watch the festivities. In addition, since the middle of the 20th century, the U.S. president usually “pardons” at least one Thanksgiving turkey each year, letting them safely retire to a farm.
New York City’s Thanksgiving Parade 2021, hosted by Macy’s department store
Thanksgiving in Canada
The first Canadian Thanksgiving occurred around 1578, 43 years earlier than its American counterpart, although the first official Thanksgiving celebration didn’t occur in Canada until the 19th century. At first, similar European holidays were the inspiration for the event. The holiday allowed colonists in Canada to appreciate a successful harvest’s products. Despite being much older than American traditions, the Canadian holiday did adopt some of the U.S. customs later on.
Before and during the Revolutionary War, many American colonists who supported the British moved to Canada, thereby bringing their Thanksgiving practices. As a result, the Canadian menu for a Thanksgiving feast often includes a turkey, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, and stuffing, much like the Americans. Though there are many similarities, the date for the holiday differentiates from America’s; in Canada, Thanksgiving Day is on the second Monday of October. In addition, not every province celebrates it as a public holiday.
An example of a Canadian household on Thanksgiving Day
Thanksgiving in Liberia
Since Liberia was founded by freed American slaves in 1847, many of their traditions are influenced by the United States; this includes Thanksgiving customs. Some activities in Liberia include a church service on Thanksgiving Day followed by an auction of harvest crops. Finally, as in America, families would return home to a feast.
However, unlike America, the holiday is held on the first Thursday of November in Liberia. There are also some culinary differences; in Liberia, their menu consists of roast chicken, green bean casserole, and mashed cassavas. This is because it is rarer to find turkeys and pumpkins in Liberia, a West African nation. As with many Liberian celebrations, they also listen to music, dance, and sing on Thanksgiving Day.
Traditional foods for a Thanksgiving dinner in Liberia
Thanksgiving in Norfolk Island
Across the world, Norfolk Island, located off the coast of Australia, adopted a very similar version of American Thanksgiving. With a population of just 2,000 residents, the island was a British penal colony for 67 years, from 1788 to 1855. During this time, many whalers and traders from the United States visited the area. Isaac Robinson, an American trader, arrived in the late 1800s and introduced the traditional Thanksgiving to a local church. Despite him sadly dying soon afterward, the island kept the holiday. Now, individuals living on Norfolk Island have a feast with pork, chicken, bananas, and pumpkin pie. They celebrate the occasion on the last Wednesday of November.
A food drive on Norfolk Island during ThanksgivingRead More
Halloween was a blast this year! It was so fun to be able to “scare up” some costumes and gather in person to horrify and delight our school community – thank you to everyone who participated!
Congratulations to our Costume Contest winners:
Middle school – Tank: Jedrek V.
High school – Mushroom: Leah R.
Middle school – Scary clown: Arsen A.
High school – Patrick Bateman from American Psycho: Cormac C.
Best Group Costume:
Middle school – Victorian Servants: Ever P., Tristan C., Lily K., Jack H.
High school – Alice in Wonderland: Kimi P., Natalie M., Chloe M.
(click on the photos in the gallery below to enlarge)
Photo Credits: Emily Corona, Julia Shin, Milan Riley, Jordin LimRead More
The LatinX Student Union
Día de Los Muertos
Día de Los Muertos/Day of the Dead is celebrated yearly on November 1st and 2nd. The purpose of the holiday is to remember loved ones who have passed away. On Día de Los Muertos, families visit graves, make food that their departed loved ones once enjoyed, and create altars called ofrendas. Traditional components of the ofrenda are photographs, food offerings, mementos, candles, and orange flowers called cempasuchil (marigold) to decorate the altar and the gravesite.
To celebrate this holiday, the LatinX Student Union put up a traditional ofrenda in the main hallway on the 3rd floor. The ofrenda featured important Hispanic figures, such as Frida Kahlo, Selena Quintanilla, Evangelina Villegas, and Antonio Aguilar. Frida Kahlo was a surrealist Mexican painter who is known for her self-portraits. Selena Quintanilla was a Mexican-American musical artist and is known as the “Queen of Tejano Music.” Evangelina Villegas was a biochemist and was critical to the development of high-quality protein maize. Lastly, Antonio Aguilar is a widely recognized Mexican singer.
The LatinX Student Union also held a fundraiser by selling traditional Mexican candy and pastries. Thank you to everyone who stopped by!