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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont

Christmas is about family, regardless of your religion

Being Muslim, Christmas doesn’t hold any religious significance for me, however, being raised in America, Christmas is arguably the biggest holiday of the year. Most people in this country start gearing up for Christmas soon after Halloween, almost two months before the holiday, and we are all greeted with the same “Merry Christmas!” exclamations and accompanying music and décor despite our own religious affiliations.

When my brother and I were growing up, my parents realized that Christmas is too big  a holiday to be ignored. In order to not have us feel like the odd ones in school, our parents bought us Christmas presents and we even took part in putting up and decorating a tree. Because of this, I always looked forward to this holiday.

This year however, Christmas is likely to be much more subdued, due to the economic meltdown. Our family is, unfortunately, not immune to this. On the contrary, we were hit pretty hard. My mother has a saying, “Misery always brings its own company,” which means if you are sad about something, dwelling on it will only make it worse. Cliché as it may sound, this had inspired me to look past the material meaning of Christmas and find its real meaning.

Aside from getting presents, the thing I’d always look forward to on the holidays is seeing family. The ones that I truly love, even if they’re the busiest people, have, at the very least, one day off. Last year, my cousin spent part of his Christmas break with us and we spent a fantastic day at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Our time together was so simple, and yet one I will always cherish. I realized this is the best present I could get, and that the one thing that couldn’t be taken away with financial burdens. The holidays were made for this—time off so you can see those who matter in your life.

If you take away all the presents and glamour of the holiday season you can see the real meaning quite easily. Family is something most of us have, be it blood relatives or close friends. I believe the concept of holidays was originally meant for this. If you look back at the origin of Christmas, you can see another, more significant meaning, something anyone of any religion can appreciate—the birth and celebration of a family. Mary and Joseph brought their first and only son into the world, which was possibly the greatest joy for them. They had finally become a family.

Who knows, maybe this economic meltdown is actually meant to help us all understand and appreciate the true meaning of the holidays, an aspect too many of us take for granted: family.

Sulymon Siddiq is a third-year political science student at the University of California, Riverside, where he writes for the school newspaper.


Putting up the tree is the best part about Christmas

My name is Rhea Subramanian and my favorite holiday is Christmas. The best part is putting up the Christmas tree, the ornaments, the ribbons, the lights, and the angel. My dad puts up the angel because he is so tall. We also hang stockings up on the fireplace.

It’s really fun to lay in bed thinking of all the presents I will get. We always leave cookies and milk for Santa. I send my wish list to Santa about a month before Christmas.

This year my baby sister was born so she can share my favorite Christmas traditions with me and she can make a wish list too. Sometimes me and my dad wrap a gift for my mom together. And every Christmas we go shopping for a gift for someone poor. Now they can have something for Christmas too!

Just before the Christmas holidays begin at school, I give gifts to all my teachers. On Christmas day I open my presents. My family and I are Indians but we still celebrate Christmas.

Eight-year-old Rhea Subramanian is a third-grader who is an avid reader and enjoys writing stories and poems. She has won a couple of awards for her short stories at school.

Celebrating the holidays with an immigrant twist

Thanksgiving is a time for most people in this country to reconnect with their families. As an immigrant, my friends have become my family. So, every Thanksgiving we gather at my friend’s home which is appropriately called Mitralya, a place where friends meet.

Since most of us are vegetarians, turkey is not the centerpiece of this celebration. We bring our favorite dish to the table, Indian and non-Indian. The idea is to gather together under one roof, play board games, eat, sleep, watch movies, eat again … you get the picture. We always take time to go around the circle of 30 or so friends gathered to say a few words about what we are thankful for this year. Some are even creative enough to say it in a poem!

The day after Thanksgiving my younger son, Mahir, and I have a tradition of decorating the home and getting it ready for the holidays. We begin with making a gingerbread house. Nothing fancy, just form the kit that is available at Trader Joe’s. Then we take out the fake Christmas tree (I am allergic to the real thing!), and decorate it. The best part for me is to go over the story behind each ornament. I remind him if he had made the ornament in the first grade, or whether we bought it in Belize while on vacation. Whenever we travel, I collect ornaments for the tree form all over the world. Some people collect magnets, I collect Christmas ornaments.

Mahir was a lego maniac as a child. So, every year he re-creates a functioning lego train that goes around the Christmas tree. I think he has outgrown the legos but his father still loves the moments they spend together building this lego train.

We turn on the Christmas lights once again, second time for this year. The first time was when we lighted the home during Divali in October. All my neighbors now know that we are not confused about Christmas coming early when we light the home for Divali. In fact, they think of it as a signal that they need to get ready to take out their boxes out of the garage soon.

Pragati Grover believes in unity in diversity and lives her life celebrating things big and small. She is the mother of two boys, Rishabh and Mahir. Pragati is a Saratoga School Board member and a community