Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I remember walking down the shopping lane as a child and seeing a swarm of Christmas trees lining the streets. Trees of every size with their prefixed ornaments and fairy lights stood alongside them. My parents would get me a small tree and ornaments to decorate it with every year. They would take me to church to light a candle and embrace the holidays.
Even as a child living in the states, I was frequently asked if I celebrated Christmas or if I had even heard about it. The question always struck me as odd because I had never even considered not celebrating the holiday. This year, I was asked the same question once again, so I took a moment and thought about why, and then the realization hit me – Christmas isn’t a secular holiday.
The serenity of Christmas has been unmatched in my life. The appeal of this holiday for me always belonged in its ability to build communities and to secularize the experience of faith for me. I don’t come from a country that celebrates Christmas as a high holiday; nonetheless, I’ve been taught about it and included in celebrating every ritual and practice associated with it — as have my parents and everyone in my own generation.
I believe this practice helped build a more tolerant society around me. This has become a leading example in my life for inclusive holiday settings. In a world that is becoming increasingly defined in terms of faith and religion, it’s extremely important to ensure that people are given the opportunity to not just educate themselves about traditions and rituals that concern these religions, but are also involved in carrying out these practices.
When we fail to do so, we start alienating people from their peers and their surroundings. Christmas has always represented a time to meet friends and celebrate with family. In a way, it helped me access a different facet of interactions within my own community. Something as simple as Secret Santa allows people to come together and take a moment to reflect on things that concern people beyond us. It creates empathetic relationships. The moment we start excluding people from such events, we start creating a toxicity that eventually results in intolerant behaviors.
My own life experiences have taught me to appreciate the nuances of holidays that didn’t belong to my faith. It was only a few months ago that my friend invited me to join her in breaking her fast of Yom Kippur. A recent while ago that same friend was telling me how she celebrated Hanukkah. These were holidays I heard about but never actually experienced and I am grateful that I was provided with a chance to partake.
I have learned to appreciate and acknowledge the gravity of such practices and recognize the importance it holds in other people’s lives. In a way, it has taught me to act more respectfully towards societies that these traditions belong to.
We need to let people in spaces, all spaces — irrespective of whether or not they were born into them.
Priyanshi Katare is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.