While many people have Christmas on their mind, not all Blazers partake in that ordinary holiday
For the majority of America, December is filled with cheerful Christmas songs, decorating a new tree with old ornaments and getting into the holiday spirit. According to a 2010 Gallup poll, 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. But for some Blazers, the holiday season doesn't involve the conventional traditions that most of their peers have. With activities ranging from festive parades to searching for the best place to hide a gift, how do these Blazers celebrate the holiday season in unconventional ways?
A modern comfort
To escape the most common winter celebrations, junior Michael Morganstein celebrates a contemporary holiday derived from a TV show. His family's holiday cheer comes from an episode of the show "Seinfeld" in which a holiday called Festivus was created to avoid the commercial aspects of Christmas. For Morganstein and his family, Festivus is a way to be together without the conventional holiday events. "Festivus is about celebrating your family without doing any religious stuff that we don't want to celebrate," he says. Morganstein and his family also partake in a parade that consists of marching down the street while playing various instruments. After the parade, Morganstein partakes in "the airing of grievances" and "the feats of strength," both of which are from Seinfeld. "The 'feats of strength' is when the children of a house attempt to wrestle the head male of the household and the 'airing of grievances' is when we say what we don't like about each other," Morganstein says.
Bringing back the old
Unlike Morganstein's modern festivities, junior Ian Teixeira and his family bring an old holiday to modern times by celebrating the Winter Solstice. The Solstice, which usually occurs on Dec. 20 or 21, marks the beginning of winter and is the shortest day of the year. Teixeira celebrates the event because it falls in between the two major holidays. "[My parents] picked it as a halfway point between Christmas and Hannukah," he says. "That's the main reason we celebrate it." In order to create rituals of their own for the little-celebrated Winter Solstice, Teixeira's family uses pagan ideas to create their own traditions. "We usually light some stuff on fire and my dad usually brings out some herbs and says they have some magical meaning," Teixeira says.
Although Teixeira does not find this as as exciting as he did when he was little, now that he's older his family has gotten more involved. "We have scripts and we all play different parts like the sun and the moon," he says. And of course a winter holiday isn't complete without presents, which are given by a special Winter Solstice figure. "We have the solstice bear! The solstice bear hides your presents and you have to go looking for them around the house," he says.
Mixing heartfelt traditions
For junior Tom Agger, it's all about mixing common traditions to form a new one. Since different sides of his family come from different religions, Agger and his family have made a new custom to combine two different holiday traditions. "My family is Jewish, but my grandmother was Christian and we always used to go to her house and decorate her tree," Agger says. In order to carry on the family's traditions after his grandmother passed away, Agger and his family decided to modify their decorating. "We still wanted to decorate a tree, so we came up with a spin on the classic 'Christmas tree,'" he says.
For Agger and his family, the decorating is similar to that of a Christmas tree but tailored to better suit Hannukah. "Every year, my family buys a Christmas tree and calls it a Hannukah bush," Agger says. "We decorate it with blue and white ornaments, and we're on the search for a Jewish star tree topper."
Mixing elements of Hannukah with the tree decorations serves as a unique way of mixing the two holiday traditions. "Christmas seems to have such interesting and fun traditions," Agger says. "It is hard to not want to participate in some of the Christmas traditions that happen around us."
In addition to decorating the tree, Agger and his family also enjoy holiday music. "We also listen to a lot of Christmas music because there isn't much good Hannukah music out there," he adds.
Unconventional holidays and traditions are often celebrated to start new practices, bring back old ones or simply celebrate more than one holiday at the same time. "When I tell people about these different mixes of traditions, they call me out for not being a 'real Jew,'" Agger says. However, these Blazers make it clear, from enjoying a modern pop-culture derived holiday to acknowledging the changing seasons and moon circle, that winter celebrations don't always have to follow the traditional patterns.
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