The Modern State of the Holiday Season

Abigail Elperin, Staff Writer

As the full force of winter establishes itself, a multitude of holidays approach, too. This time in winter is largely classified under one umbrella term: the holiday season. says, “’Holiday season’ is a North American term that refers to the period from Thanksgiving until the New Year. This covers many of the most important holidays in American culture, when most people in the USA and Canada are likely to travel back to their home town or take time off to spend time with their family.” Though the holiday season is generally defined by the holidays that take place within it, many argue that everyone, regardless of what holidays they may or may not celebrate, can feel festive. Sophomore Amogh Desai remarks, “It is a time to be happy in the winter weather and enjoy time with other people. Everyone can do that.”  

 In modern American society, consumerism and Christocentricsm reign almost as preconditions to winter. The shelves of stores begin to turn red and green and feature more Christmas imagery as the holiday approaches. The time before Dec. 25 is known as “The Christmas Season” among many. So many people see December as the “Christmas Season” that Oxford’s Dictionary officially recognizes the word “Christmastime” (no other holiday has the honor of a similar word). Celebrated on Dec. 25, the holiday can trace its roots back thousands of years. says, “Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.” Christians around the world partake in many different customs to commemorate the day. Junior Naomi Zelaya says, “Some traditions are inviting family over, cooking a homemade dinner, baking cookies, and making snow angels.” Some people also attend church or find other ways to appreciate the day religiously. While many classic customs persist, it is impossible to ignore the extent to which capitalism has corrupted some aspects the holiday. Senior Rama Bah says, “I used to work at HomeGoods, so I put together a ton of Christmas trees, with the glitter and everything. People spend a lot of money on Christmas each year, buying gifts and other Christmas stuff. People make a lot of money off of that.”  

The second most observed December holiday in America is Chanukah, also spelled Hannukah and Channukkah. The first written record of the holiday derives from Classical Hebrew, so there are several ways to Romanize it. The holiday is celebrated for eight nights, recognized with an added candle on the menorah as each day passes. Sophomore Omar Abdelrahman says, “My friends who celebrate Chanukkah describe it as a holiday to eat good food and spend quality time with family.” Contrary to popular belief, Chanukkah is not a “Jewish Christmas,” nor is it a major holiday for Jewish people at all. Chanukkah holds virtually no religious significance, but is rather a cultural celebration of resistance to assimilation. This holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights, can trace itself back to what many historians estimate to be second century BC. says, “There was very little oil left that had not been defiled by the Greeks. Oil was needed for the menorah (candelabrum) in the Temple, which was supposed to burn throughout the night every night. There was only enough oil to burn for one day, yet miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah.” Despite the religious insignificance, Chanukkah should not go unnoticed by non-observers. Freshman Alex Karpman says, “I noticed that Christian holidays get a lot more attention. School gets cancelled, plus you can see the red and white on Starbucks cups and all that.”  

The third most celebrated December holiday is Kwanzaa, with an estimated 12.5 million Americans celebrating each year. Kwanzaa is celebrated from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1. It is not uncommon for people who celebrate Kwanzaa to also celebrate it in conjunction with Christmas or Chanukkah, as Kwanzaa is not tied to any particular religion. Maulana Karenga, the man who created Kwanzaa in 1966, says in an article for,“Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality.” The holiday was created with the intention of helping African-American families reconnect to their African roots through seven principles: Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (collective economics), Nia (purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith). The Kinara (candleholder) has seven candles, each of which represent one of the seven principles. The candles are typically red (to represent the struggle and blood shed for Black liberation), green (to represent the abundance of Africa and optimism), and black (representing people of African descent). Kwanzaa was originally created in California, following the unrest of the Watts riots. An article from the National Museum of African American History & Culture says, “Although Kwanzaa is primarily an African American holiday, it has also come to be celebrated outside the United States, particularly in Caribbean and other countries where there are large numbers of descendants of Africans.” On Kwanzaa, families love to share gifts and enjoy meals, especially the grand Karamu feast, typically held on the sixth night of Kwanzaa, Dec. 31. Observers of Kwanzaa commemorate their ancestors and reflect on their African heritage.  

Merry Christmas, happy Chanukkah, joyous Kwanzaa, and happy New Year to all those who celebrate!