December 4, 2003


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For the last Rant of the semester, I feel obliged to send my fellow Cornellians off to their respective homes with an inspiring column that embodies the spirit of this holiday season. Unfortunately, I have no idea what that might be.

For you see, gone are the days when Christmas was the only holiday in middle America for December. All of a sudden, winter also belongs to Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and, let’s not forget, Festivus for the rest of us. So in the spirit of political correctness, I have decided to do a little research on the Internet to find out the best way to navigate this holiday season.

First on the scene, the Jewish Festival of Lights will fire up its menorah on the night of December 19th. A candle will be added to the menorah every night for the next eight days to celebrate the retaking of the temple. Although Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday, its proximity to Christmas immediately caught the eyes of advertisers and retailers alike. Commonly mistaken for the “Jewish Christmas,” Chanukah is anything but. After all, you can get presents on eight nights instead of just one!

Even with Chanukah gaining popularity, Christmas still commands the lion’s share of the market, and hence, our hearts. Today, Christmas is symbolized by Santa Claus; cheesy, overdone school plays about the birth of Jesus; and a slew of mediocre holiday movies. In fact, many people believe that rampant commercialization has completely ruined this once sacred day.

Lucky for you, Winter Solstice presents an excellent alternative. Most people don’t know that Christmas owes its origin to pagan roots. Celebrated all around the world, Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st this year and marks the beginning of winter. Although the original celebrants were strongly persecuted by Christians, many of their traditions, such as Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and the dreaded mistletoe, have since made their way into Christmas tradition.

It used to be that once Christmas ended, we would have to wait a whole six days before we could party again. To help fill in this gap, Dr. Maulana Karenga invented an entirely new holiday that consists of giving presents, eating food, and lighting candles. Although Kwanzaa primarily pays homage to African heritage, strongly encourages people of all races and nations to celebrate this occasion.

For all of you atheists out there, you may be asking, “What’s left for me?” Well, if you don’t want to be merry, lack the cash for presents, or scoff at the thought of worshipping deities, then Festivus is your holiday. Invented by George Costanza’s father, Festivus, celebrated on December 23rd, is easily arranged, environmentally friendly, and promotes family gatherings. Understanding that the true meaning of a holiday is only obscured by decorations, the only ornament is a tall, thin pole. Festivus also encourages family interactions with its two traditions, the “Airing of Grievances” and the “Feats of Strength.”

With such diverse holidays to pick from this season, there is no good excuse not to get involved. So head to the malls and buy your share of candles, mistletoe, sacrificial goats, and/or silvery poles. Oh, and don’t forget those Kwanzaa greeting cards. Welcome to the Holiday Season.

Archived article by Yiwei Wang