It’s officially December, and that means that the holiday season is truly upon us. Walking around New York City, you can see the holiday spirit, whether it be the smiles on people’s faces or the smell of hot cocoa in the air. I love the holidays and everything they bring — including presents, vacations and family time. However, there is a stark difference in the way I celebrate the holidays versus the way the majority of the people around me celebrate the holidays. I have been raised Hindu in America. In the United States, while there are many holidays celebrated around this time, such as Hanukkah, the predominant holiday is Christmas. For my family, the break we get in the winter for Christmas is just an average break, not a religious holiday and that changes my perspective of what everyone likes to call the holidays.
My parents are immigrants who came to the U.S. when I was just a baby. Growing up, I was taught Hindu shlokas and chants, and I never even heard of the concept of Christmas or Christmas carols until I started elementary school. I distinctly remember coming home from school one day and asking my mom what Christmas was. I think she told me it was like Diwali for people in the U.S. So, when my classmates came back to school in January when I was little, all they talked about were the cool toys and games that Santa brought them, and I couldn’t help but feel a little left out. And this feeling still lives with me today.
People’s spirits lift in the holidays, and as the semester is winding down, everyone around me is chattering about how they’re going to go home and do all these special holiday rituals. Yet, last year I was the rogue one on Christmas Day. And I, as a non-Christian, am completely OK with that. However, some people couldn’t believe that’s how I chose to spend my Christmas, and that is preposterous. In a country such as the United States, even with the current political and social climate, there are people of many different backgrounds who do not always share the same holidays and ideals as you. During Hindu holidays, there is no vacation for me: I have to go to class and go on with my day as if it were just an ordinary day.
What may be a holiday for one person can be a normal day for another. I will always love the idea of Christmas, but it will never be a part of my identity and my culture. So, next time you ask someone how they celebrated Christmas, take a moment and realize that maybe they don’t view the holidays the same way as you do.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Shraddha Jajal at [email protected]
A version of this appeared in the Monday, Dec. 4 print edition. Email [email protected]