More Than Christmas

September 24, 2019

Everybody has their family traditions, and it’s easy to get stuck in a mindset of “that’s how everything is supposed to be done”. It can be refreshing for one to take a look at other cultures and traditions, and oftentimes one even learns about their own culture in return. Holidays and festivals celebrated by those who practice Judaism or Hinduism may look a lot different from the ones you’re used to. Holidays like Yom Kippur, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Simchat Torah, and Diwali are all holidays you might not have heard of that are widely celebrated.

     Yom Kippur is one of the holiest days in the Jewish religion, celebrated in late September and early October. In 2019 Yom Kippur, or the day of atonement, will be celebrated on the 8th and 9th. There are five services throughout the day, as well as additional confessions to atone for any sin that may have been committed in the prior year. There’s also a unique prayer for the day and typically fasting as well. Indigenous Peoples’ Day, celebrated on the second Monday of October, served as a kind of counter-celebration to Columbus Day. This year it will be celebrated on the 14th. More talked about than most holidays, it’s very similar to Native American Day, though that is mainly celebrated in states outside of Iowa. In recent years it’s become more of a day for sharing Native American culture.

     Simchat Torah is a Jewish festival celebrated on the 22nd of October. It’s the second part of a two day holiday known as “Shemini Atzeret”. The celebration starts towards the end of the day, with an evening service. The synagogues are emptied of all their Torahs as they are carried around with dancing and celebration, as the Torahs are carried around in seven hakafot, or circuits. There’s reading from the Torah and blessings from the priest in the morning, followed by more dancing as the Torahs are removed from the synagogue once more.

      On the 27th of October, we see the celebration of the “festival of lights”, or Diwali. “Usually the community plans an event where we all get together and celebrate,” elaborated Nirvik Mitra. Diwali is a religious holiday for those who celebrate Hinduism and lasts five nights. The dates change every year but this year Diwali will be at the end of October. This holiday celebrates the victory of Ramachandra, an incarnation of the god Vishnu after defeating the demon king Ravana. Mostly known for sweets, people celebrate with traditional Indian candies like barfi, a kind of fudge, and gulab jamun- similar to doughnut holes but with a sweet syrup. More food foods like Idli, like rice cake, and Puri, more or less like flatbread.

     Traditions practiced by cultures not immediately familiar can be jarringly similar to ones most people in Waukee observe. Taking a moment to experience other cultures can be an enriching experience. Although they might seem strange at first, keeping an open eye can be a feeling unmatched for anyone and everyone.

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