Christmas, although primarily a Christian holiday, is celebrated in a variety of ways from culture to culture.
Each culture or religion adds its own unique touch to the popular winter holiday. Instead of celebrating Christmas for religious reasons, Divya Shetty, GBHS junior, and her family incorporate their own cultural traditions into the holiday.
“My dad makes this Indian (food)…he makes chapati and idli with curry and chutney,” Shetty said. “He makes Indian desserts, and sometimes we have family over.”
Shetty’s family bakes and exchanges presents on Christmas, like many other American families. However, because both of her parents come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, they use the holidays as a chance to celebrate togetherness rather than a specific religion.
“We kind of just (celebrate Christmas) for the fun and festivities because that’s what the American culture is, but we don’t really believe in everything Christmas represents- besides happiness,” Shetty said.
Even though the original meaning of Christmas has Christian roots, it is clear that not every American family incorporates religion into the celebrations.
Blake Edelman, a junior, similarly enjoys the non-religious aspects of Christmas due to the fact that one side of his family is Jewish. His family chooses to make the joyous day a celebration and happiness and beloved traditions.
“Every year we go and we buy a tree, and we’ll put it up together,” Edelman said. “Then we’ll go over to my grandmother’s house for dinner on Christmas Eve and then open presents early in the morning.”
For the Edelman family, opening presents on Christmas morning is an exciting ritual including waking up at 4:00 a.m. to see the final reveal of what’s underneath the tree.
“Everyone gets really excited,” Edelman said. “We always make a huge deal out of Christmas.”
Although some people of other cultures and religions apart from Christianity do choose to partake in Christmas festivities for the sake of celebration, others choose to avoid the holiday altogether.
“No one in my family celebrates Christmas,” said Ricky Frank, a junior. “We are all Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Frank’s religion omits the celebration of any holidays throughout the calendar year, but his family and him have their own way of celebrating in the winter.
In January, in honor of his parents’ marriage during the holidays, the Franks have a white elephant gift-giving event.
“We pick names out of a hat, and we give each other gifts,” Frank said.
Frank believes that because his family does not pursue commercial holidays and celebrations, his values for family and togetherness grow greater.
“(Not celebrating holidays) makes you appreciate things more because we don’t focus much on the presents; we focus more on each other,” Frank said.
For those who are Christian by faith, going to church on Christmas is the popular custom.
“My family isn’t that religious, but around Christmas we do go to church with my mom,” said Savannah Martin, a junior.
Martin and her family do partake in the church ceremonies Christmas morning, but like Shetty and Edelman, they enjoy Christmas mainly because of all the joy and love it entails.
“Religion doesn’t contribute a ton in our family in the concept of actually going to church,” Martin said. “We appreciate everything that has been given to us, and (Christmas) is more so a day of love.”