Marwa Hassanien: ‘December an opportunity to teach about our beautiful, diverse world.’

In this holiday season, while lights, decorated homes, gifts, and festivities dominate December due to Christmas, it is important to keep in mind that many other religious and cultural holidays are celebrated during this month, as well. So, when someone says, “Happy Holidays!”, it is most likely not to be disrespectful or rude, but it may likely be because they are cognizant of being mindful and inclusive. Additionally, there are also a plethora of other holidays that are observed throughout the year, and not just in December. 

Frattamaggiore Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, for example, in early December, in remembrance of when Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi Tree. Buddhists traditionally celebrate this day by eating a meal of rice and milk and by decorating cookies in the shake of a tree to symbolize the Bodhi Tree. Jewish people also celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, to commemorate the Maccabean recapture of the Jerusalem Temple. Jews light a candle for each day in the 8-candle menorah, eat traditional favorites such as latkes, and children typically receive gifts all 8 nights. 

Kwanza, an African American holiday celebrated in December, originates from the Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits”and combines several different harvest traditions. It is celebrated over 7 days, and festivities include drumming, feasting, candle-lighting, and artistic performances. 

Ramadan and Eid are Islamic holidays that follow the lunar calendar, which advance by 10-11 days each year. As such, in 2030, Ramadan will fall in January and then again in December. In Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast every day from dawn to dusk, with the exception of children, pregnant women, the sick and elderly, and travelers. Muslims go about their normal days but do so in a more reflective manner, attending mosques, praying special prayers, reading the Quran, giving more to the needy and doing more charity, and getting closer to God.

Eid Ul-Fitr, the Islamic Festival of Feast, commemorates the end of Ramadan. Muslims celebrate by feasting, exchanging gifts, and getting together with family and friends. 

So, while December encompasses the Christian celebration of Christmas, there are many examples of other holidays celebrated during this wonderful month. December offers a great opportunity to teach about our beautiful, diverse world. It also teaches us to be aware of others’ cultural and religious holidays in order to create inclusion and be respectful. This, after all, is what our country was founded upon and the American way!! 

texas state laws for legal dating age Marwa Hassanien is the first woman of color to serve on the Bangor School Board. Though born in Stillwater, OK, USA, Marwa was raised by immigrant parents from Egypt in a bi-cultural and bi-lingual home and later married an Egyptian man.  Together, they moved to Maine in 2005.



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