December is said to be the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for those who celebrate Christmas – but what about everyone else? Across America and even on the Keene State College campus, it seems that Christmas is the focus of the month, even with other holidays being celebrated. It seems that even the month-long break students get from school is often referred to as “Christmas Break.” KSC students and faculty spoke up on the matter.
KSC sophomore Maxine Gray said that she celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas when December comes around. Gray said that she never really noticed one holiday getting more acknowledgement than the other until she came to New Hampshire.
“Originally I’m from New York and there’s a lot of Jewish people there, so I never really noticed one holiday being celebrated more than the other,” Gray said, “There’s definitely more of a build up for Christmas. Now that I’m going to college in New England, I definitely see more of a difference.”
With Christmas decorations lining downtown Main Street, Gray said that Hanukkah does feel a little forgotten.
“There are a lot of Christmas decorations all over town. Everyone’s talking about Christmas and the ‘Christmas Season.’ Chanukah is actually during school this year, and we won’t even be around for Christmas,” Gray said.
KSC sophomore Nathaniel Wolf said he celebrates Chanukah and that he doesn’t really appreciate all the hype for Christmas.
“I’m Jewish and I just don’t like how much the Christmas season is shoved down my throat the minute Halloween is over,” Wolf said.
Wolf, who is also the Vice President of Hillel, the Jewish group on campus, said that other than the excess of buildup, he doesn’t really mind the holiday.
“We have freedom of religion in America, but this is still a Christian country. I do think that Hanukkah is underrepresented, just like every other non-Christian holiday,” Wolf said.
Wolf added, “I don’t mind Christmas, but I think it’s overdone. Tone it down a little.”
Gray, on the other hand, said that she doesn’t really mind all of the focus on Christmas.
Gray said, “I think everyone should be able to express whatever religions and holidays they want to and if they feel comfortable putting up decorations, then do that. Keep an open mind, be accepting of everyone’s beliefs.”
In response to the debate of whether the excessive Christmas decorations should be left up or taken down, Gray said the more the merrier.
“I don’t think that Christmas decorations should be taken down, but they should definitely take into consideration the other major holiday that happens this time of year. There’s more than two religions in the world, and I think it would be nice if they were all represented, or at least more than one was represented, with the decorations in public places like the student center and through town.”
Ultimately, Gray said that she loves getting to celebrate two holidays in the winter season.
“It’s nice celebrating both. It’s pretty cool getting to experience two different cultures, and, you know, twice the presents,” Gray said.
Coordinator of Multicultural Student Support Annie Clark said that she thinks the holidays are a great time to learn about each other on a more intimate level.
“I think it’s really wonderful when we can learn about each other on this level, and I don’t think anybody should necessarily be intimidated by anybody else’s faith or tradition, whether the holiday is religious or just secular,”Clark said.
Clark, who said she celebrates Christmas, said she finds the holiday season a fascinating time to learn about other people.
“The holidays, no matter which one is celebrated, helps us all connect as human beings and to me, that’s very meaningful,” Clark said.
Clark added, “When I feel like we approach topics of faith with the spirit of educating and appreciating each other and our differences in a way that brings us closer together, I find that to be very valuable. But if it’s a religious based holiday, we need to be sensitive to others who aren’t getting that kind of attention.”
In 2014, the Multicultural Office held a holiday celebration event that focused on five major faiths. Clark explained, “It was run by students who wanted to share their traditions. It was really wonderful.”
This year, the Multicultural Office put on another event that was geared less toward religion, and more toward community.
“This year the idea of religion and tradition was sort of replaced with the focus on our own community, building it up, and building our connections with each other. And I think that’s really what the holidays are about – bringing people together,” Clark said.
Clark said that she thinks that while there’s great opportunity to celebrate different cultures and religions during the holiday season, there’s just as great an opportunity to celebrate similarities.
“We’re all here, we’re all at Keene State, we have a community here, let’s build it. Let’s continue to build those shared experiences,” Clark said, “There are a lot of really tough things going on in the world and in our town and on our campus. We need these times to celebrate ourselves.”
Of the winter holidays, Clark said that they have more in common than most people know.
“Hope, peace, community, family and love are themes that are common this time of year, no matter who you ask or what holiday you look at,” Clark said, “When you have those wonderful things that unite you, over and above religion or other traditions, it makes it easy. Just focus on the things that do bring us together.”
Jill can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org