The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Students Discuss Holiday Traditions

by Catherine Arjet, (opinions editor)  Lise Caspersen, Lucy Kaplan and Bijal Patel (contributors)

Millsaps’s diverse student body has equally diverse holiday celebrations. To get an idea of how students spend the most wonderful time of the year, I asked three students to share their families’ holiday traditions. Lise Casperson shares Norwegian Christmas festivities, Lucy Kaplan discusses her Jewish and Presbyterian celebrations, while Bijal Patel gives us some insight into Diwali. While this in no way encapsulates the vast amount of traditions of Millsaps students, it does give us a sampling of the many diverse festivities in which students participate.

Lise Caspersen: Christmas in Norway

Christmas for most Norwegians starts on December 1. Children have Christmas calendars where they receive a new small gift, chocolate or a toy each day in December. All the major television companies show Christmas related TV-shows with one new episode per day, and all the radio channels blast old familiar Christmas music.

As the temperature drops we all know the big day, Christmas Eve, is quickly approaching. In the days before Christmas Eve chaos is ruling at the malls, airports and grocery stores. But then, on the morning of Christmas Eve, the chaos is suddenly over. What is not done must remain undone.

Most Norwegians consider the morning of Christmas Eve “Christmas morning”. Children wake up to filled stockings, and marathons with old and new Disney classics are mandatory. At 11 a.m. “Three Wishes for Cinderella” comes on, and families all over the country gather in front of the TV. At 5 p.m. the “Silver Boys” choir sings in Christmas in and families start their festive holiday dinners. Pork, lamb and trout are commonly served, followed by creamed rice for dessert. The dinner can last for hours. After dinner, it is finally time for the whole family to open presents.

On Christmas morning everything is more relaxed. The day normally starts with a large brunch in the middle of the day followed by a walk or ski trip out in the winter air. The days after Christmas Eve consist of food, laziness, family and fun. Then we spend another 11 months looking forward to Christmas again.


Lucy Kaplan: Jewish/Presbyterian Holiday Fun

My mother is Presbyterian and my father is Reform Jewish. That means I’ve always celebrated all relevant holidays, both Jewish and Christian. Thus, Christmaskah, the cultural crossroads of my mother and father, is what we call the incredibly busy Decemberish time of year when my family celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah.

I say Decemberish because Hanukkah falls on a different day each year—I’ve celebrated Hanukkah pretty much every day between Thanksgiving and the New Year at some point in my life. We light the candles on the menorah (or screw in the bulbs on my grandmother’s electric one), make and eat latkes, play dreidel, collect and munch on chocolate gelt and open gifts from my Jewish family, who come in from Arizona to celebrate with us.

Christmas Eve, the reliable holiday, always happens on December 24. We go to church as a family, we get to open up our new pajamas and “Santa” comes. On Christmas morning we sit around our haphazardly ornamented tree and eat chocolate croissants while opening gifts from my Christian family in Memphis and Mississippi. We do have one wonderful Jewish twist on Christmas—we always eat Chinese food after church on Christmas Eve.


Bijal Patel: Diwali

Diwali is the biggest and definitely the brightest of all Hindu festivals. It’s a festival of light that celebrates the victory of good over evil. Diwali signifies the return of Lord Rama from a 14-year exile and his victory over the demon Ravana. The Diwali celebrations take place over a period of five days each giving thanks and praying for a healthy New Year. The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras where people worship Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, for a prosperous year. The second day is Kali Chaudas and celebrates when Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasur. The third day is the actual celebration of Diwali, and the fourth day marks the start of a new year in the Hindu calendar. Finally, the fifth day, Bhai Beej, is when brothers visit their sisters and wish each other a happy and successful new year. Apart from the meaning behind the celebrations, Diwali is a time for families to come together and reconnect.