I want to wish everyone a very joyous holiday season and a wonderful new year!
The holiday season always brings back memories of my childhood. We arrived from India to the United States when I was almost four years old. I didn’t know much about the December holiday season but I absolutely loved seeing all the wonderful lights, decorations, happiness, and of course Santa too. Although I did not believe in Santa Claus traveling around the world giving gifts to everyone, I did appreciate how much joy Santa brought to so many of my classmates when talking about him.
And so, I asked my parents if we too can decorate a Christmas tree and exchange gifts. Those days even something small like a pencil had us focus on the concept of giving and receiving which made it special. As I got older, the holiday season was a part of our lives every December. I have friends who celebrated other holidays such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa so I learned about them as well. We longer focused on gift exchange, rather the joy of family time, decorations especially lights (so much like Diwali), sharing with others, and appreciation for all that we have.
As a Hindu from India, we have our own religious holidays and many festivals throughout the year. My grandfather and parents instilled in me that while we have our own religious faith, that should not stop us from embracing the cultural beauty of other religious holidays. They wanted me to learn, respect, and appreciate all that is around me. I have attended services in churches and synagogues with my friends. After all, one of the many blessings of America is to be surrounded by people from around the world.
Fast forward to now- although I do not always realize it, I am raising my children in the similar way plus more with the access to knowledge right at our fingertips aka the phone! I was so proud of my daughter Shyla sharing during her virtual kindergarten holiday party. “We are Hindu and we just celebrated Diwali. We do not celebrate any of the December holidays religiously but we celebrate all of them culturally!” That made me tear up... she gets it!
We embrace all the holidays for all the wonderful things they represent! We learned so much about Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa! We had lights from our menorah, our tree, and our kinara! My daughters have friends who celebrate them which stemmed their curiosity to learn more and also further built their self confidence. This made me think of the famous Mahatma Gandhi quote "we must be the change we wish to see in this world." I recognized an opportunity to educate other children and so I hosted a virtual class for the school to learn about Kwanzaa. Most of the children had not heard about the festival and now they all learned the significance of a kinara (as featured on our Christmas tree). With my daughter's help, we helped her teach diversity to her class, learn something new and appreciate another cultural festival.
From our family to yours- let's remember the year 2020 as the year we grew as individuals to further appreciate life, our loved ones, and all the beauty that surrounds us. No matter what your faith... expose your children to celebrations from other cultures, especially with the access we have to information. Even a sprinkle of knowledge can open a world of curiosity and empathy. Let’s raise global inclusive citizens together!