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Dec. 12, 2002, Gazette

A month of celebration

Katie Norman
Newfoundland is not exactly the most diverse place in the entire world. This is not meant to be an insult to the people living here; it is simply saying that immigration into our province has not always been economically favoured when compared to other provinces like Alberta and Ontario. In my high school I could count on two hands the number of people who were not Caucasians of European descent. The Memorial campus offers much more diversity than the population of Newfoundland does as a whole – between students and staff we likely have every continent covered. This is something wonderful that I think we should celebrate.

Yet this diversity has lead me to realize how little I know about other cultures. I’ve been just as exposed to the world as many other Newfoundlanders – I’ve travelled all over Europe and visited almost every major city in Canada. I’ve attended religious ceremonies other than my own and went to summer camps with people from all over the world. I’ve taken religion courses, yet I don’t feel like I have ever experienced any culture vastly different than my own for long enough to understand what it is all about.

When it comes around to the holidays I always find myself picking up magazines and reading feature articles about other religious and cultural holiday ceremonies. Ever since I was a kid, with my Highlights magazine in tow, I’ve been curious about Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas and Ramadan. Then there are all the variances in the tradition of Christmas to learn about.

Chanukah was the first ceremony I started to explore. This was piqued by the interest of reading Number the Stars and studying the Second World War in elementary school. For a kid, Chanukah sounds 10 times better than Christmas – hello, there are eight days of gifts! Yet as I grew older so did my interest in Judaism. After performing scenes from The Diary of Anne Frank in front of a synagogue packed full of people I began to put a human face to the Dreidel, potato latkes and the menorah.

Kwanzaa is the celebration of African culture that began in 1966. It spans seven days in December. Learning about Kwanzaa made me realize that the principals they celebrate should be celebrated by all people. Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith each mark one days of the celebration.

Las Posadas is the Mexican celebration of the journey of Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Each night between Dec. 16-24 they hold a party with plenty of food and drink. Songs are sung and a piñata is broken at the end of the evenings.

Ramadan is the fasting ninth month of the Muslim calendar, a celebration that strives to strengthen the family unit and sense of community. Ever since the terrorist attacks in New York the Muslim religion has been under attack, yet if people educated themselves on the core principals of Islam they would realize that it is fundamentalists who are committing acts of terror and not every person who confesses to the Islamic religion.

When it all comes down to it each of these celebrations strives to bring unity to a community and celebrate peace, family and friends. The entire month of December has become synonymous with celebrating. Whether you’re celebrating the Birth of Jesus, the Festival of Lights, African Culture, the consciousness of Allah’s presence or commercialism there’s a place for you in December. So as you hang your lights and buy your gifts, take some time this holiday season to consider what people all over the world and perhaps even next door are celebrating. Ask a friend about their traditions, the more we know the closer we will come to the holiday goals of peace and community.