Celebrating Our Differences

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Winter break can evoke opposing feelings; sadness in missing friends from school, joy in reconnecting with family; stress from searching for the perfect gift, bliss with a break from the everyday toil of school. Everyone’s experience is different, but are all connected by hope.

Junior Darelle Wabo said her family celebrates Christmas but they also tie in some traditions from her parent’s home country of Cameroon in Africa. One specific tradition is “a ritual ceremony of prayer to humble ourselves and give thanks to our ancestors for paving the way for us. It is spoken in both French and Patois—which is our tribal dialect from Baham, Cameroon,” Wabo said. 

Looking back, Wabo said her favorite memory of winter break was when they shared their traditional Cameroonian meal of “roasted fish, roasted chicken, ribs, fried plantains, and steamed fermented cassava wrapped in banana leaves” with new friends. 

“There’s a particular Christmas that my family and I treasure. At that time my dad had just befriended a senior couple from his work and later invited them over for Christmas dinner. It was both exhilarating and touching to see Americans enjoy our traditional food,” Wabo said. Because Wabo’s parents are immigrants and most of her extended family lives in Cameroon, Christmas time is usually a close family affair that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Wabo said, “Our holidays are generally more intimate compared to other Cameroonians since we live here in the USA and away from extended family. However, COVID-19 has made it even more isolating, naturally, as we are no longer able to celebrate with our family friends that have become our home away from home.” Overall, Wabo said her winter break will include “a lot of eating, singing, praying, and dancing.”

Similarly, senior Braden Rains said he won’t be seeing his extended family this winter holiday season. Rains said his family is also Christian and will celebrate this Christmas with a virtual Christmas Eve service. “We aren’t able to see our grandparents and go to church in person this year but we are traveling to Colorado to go skiing this year ‘cause it’s a way for us to stay social[ly] distanced and be able to have fun at the same time,” Rains said. 

According to Rains, attending his church’s Christmas Eve service is a tradition that has had to be altered for the first time in years for his family. “We do it every year ‘cause it’s something that has been a part of our family every year, and it’s a way for us to celebrate a life that let us live the life we do today, and give thanks to Him,” Rains said. 

Although his church service has been pushed online, Rains said he’ll enjoy going skiing since he hasn’t been able to ski for a while, as well as just enjoying close family connections. “My favorite memories are being able to open our pajama presents on Christmas Eve and just being able to spend time with my family and watch Christmas movies all day,” Rains said. 

Junior Hana Elkishawi will also—hopefully—be enjoying the snow. Elkishawi said her and her family are Muslims, so they celebrate 2 Eids and Ramadan, none of which occur over the district’s winter break. Elkishawi said she typically spends her winter break just enjoying the cold weather. 

“I always looked forward to the possibility of snow over winter break because I’m someone who loves cold weather. I also love ice skating during winter break and just being able to do whatever I wanted to without the stress of schoolwork,” Elkishawi said. Her family does have a winter tradition of their own though; “My family and I do go see city Christmas lights for fun pretty much every year.” They went to see the lights this year, but her and her sister’s plans to visit family in Canada were derailed with the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. 

Sophomore Nate Moore’s plans may also change gears due to COVID-19. Moore said his family typically enjoys eating out over winter break “which could change based on the current restrictions…” 

Moore said he thinks his break will look different than past years overall, but especially because of the changes to the wrestling team. “I think it will look a lot different with things like sports changing and having to cram more into our wrestling schedule than usual,” Moore said. As he’s grown, Moore said his hobbies over break have changed from “snowboarding when it snowed and getting to hang out with my friends…” to “enjoy[ing] the cold weather and shoveling driveways for money.”

Junior Taylor Robinson said her favorite winter break activity is an annual gift exchange between her siblings, and in past years friends. “Every year, me and my siblings draw names and so a secret Santa together. It adds fun to the holidays, and makes it so I don’t have to buy gifts for all four of them,” Robinson said. 

Robinson and her family are Catholic and have celebrated Christmas every year. This year the celebrations continue, just spread out. Robinson said, “We probably aren’t going to see my cousins and grandparents this year, which is really sad, but safety comes first, obviously.” 

This mentality is one that many Americans have taken up for this holiday season, stressing the importance of socially distancing and mask wearing while still connecting with family and traditions. Although friends and families may be spread apart, they can be connected by the hope and joy of a winter break and the upcoming new year.

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