A Handful of Holidays

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Gabby Sacks’ menorah on the third day of Hanukkah

Andrea Rachita, Journalist

As winter break approaches, hundreds of Olympia High School students are getting ready for the holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, and Solstice are almost upon us, and OHS’s student body is buzzing with excitement.

Christmas is the most widely celebrated holiday at OHS. The story behind Christmas is well-known; when Jesus was born, three kings brought frankincense, gold, and myrrh to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, starting today’s tradition of gift-giving. Today, Christmas has its own subculture that is disconnected from religion, characterized by Hallmark movies and Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. Christmas activities mostly include the classic decorating and cookie-baking, but some families have their own traditions. Senior Carley Johnson describes her family’s tradition of exchanging festive pajamas. “We put them under the tree along with everything else, but we open them up on Christmas Eve,” she says. “We wear them through the night so that when we wake up the next morning, everyone can be matching while we open presents.” Aside from its religious significance, Christmas has a meaning all of its own. “It’s a holiday for giving,” she says. “But you can’t just give someone a present. It’s all about giving something with meaning and love.”

Another holiday that dozens of OHS students participate in is Hanukkah, which is an eight-day-long Jewish holiday best known for the lighting of the Menorah, where each night one additional candle is lit to celebrate the miracle of the cruse of oil. Jewish people faced persecution in Greece, where a temple was destroyed. Among the rubble, only a day’s worth of oil survived. However, the lamp lit with that oil lasted eight days. According to Gabby Sacks, an OHS Senior, Jewish people eat many fried foods at Hanukkah in honor of that oil, and play the dreidel games that the Jewish Grecians played. This year, Hanukkah starts on November 28th and ends on December 6th. “Hanukkah is really fun. It’s a time for family,” she says. “But sometimes, it can be annoying how much emphasis people put on it. It’s not the most important holiday in Judaism. People only think it is because it takes place around Christmas-time, but people never take the time to learn about more significant Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover.”

Solstice, a pagan holiday celebrating the longest night of the year, is another holiday that OHS students take part in. “As it’s a pagan holiday, there aren’t very many strict traditions. Everyone kind of celebrates it how they want to. That’s what’s so cool about it,” says Senior Kelso Wright. “But people will usually keep some kind of light on all night, like a candle or a lantern,” they add. What’s interesting about the solstice is that it’s a worldly holiday; no matter what religion you’re a part of, there will always be one night that’s longer than the others. “It’s a celebration of the rebirth of the sun,” they say. Solstice has been grouped together with the other winter holidays as a time for gratitude, but its influence on other holidays is actually more pronounced. Jesus’s birthday wasn’t listed in the bible, Wright says.  “Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. But since many people were already celebrating Solstice, it was the most convenient time for his birth to be celebrated. Christmas actually started because of Solstice.” This year, the winter solstice is on December 21st. 

OHS students celebrate a diverse array of holidays — Christmas, Solstice, Hanukkah, and even more — so as you get ready to stay home for the next two weeks, don’t forget to wish your peers Happy Holidays!