As I walk across campus, the cold wind bites my face and snow flurries dance wildly around me. I pass Starbucks and the urge for a White Chocolate Peppermint Latte becomes irresistible. Inside Starbucks, the relaxed atmosphere, soft music and smell of fall spices warms my soul. It is early in the morning so the usual afternoon rush hasn’t hit. The barista smiles at me handing over my red holiday cup filled with deliciousness.

The holiday season is here and Starbucks is one of the first places to channel the holiday spirit. Trees glow through windows, houses are lit with Christmas lights, students constantly update Twitter and Facebook statuses counting down the days to Christmas and Spotify notifications on Facebook are littered with people listening to Christmas tunes.

Intermingled in the holiday spirit, if not as apparent here as the Christmas lights and trees, are the Menorahs of Hanukkah and Kinaras of Kwanzaa.

Jews begin celebrating Hanukkah this year at sunset Dec. 20 and ending Dec. 29. Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew, commemorates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian-Greek soldiers.

The menorah is a nine-branched candelabrum, eight for the eight days of Hanukkah and one used to light the others.

The Menorah is an important part of the religious holiday because it celebrates the miracle of the oil.

Kwanzaa has a similar tradition of lighting candles, known as kinaras. The holiday is a week-long celebration from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, honoring African-American heritage and culture. The seven days represents the seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work, family, purpose, creativity and faith.

Kwanzaa, like Christmas, is celebrated by a feast and gift giving.

As the holiday break approaches and students leave for home, the holiday spirit of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other traditions bring happiness, feasting and family gatherings for many. It is important to remember in this spirit we give to those less fortunate and remember the sense of community this season brings. I wish you all a happy and safe holiday vacation.


Saba Naseem is the 2011-2012 Traveler editor. 

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