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Local families celebrate varied holidays in December

’Tis the season to be jolly as Americans commemorate numerous holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Eid.

December is the only time of year when the magic of lights, presents and jovial family gatherings wash away the harshness of reality.

Department stores offer discounts to catch the attention of busy shoppers, further accentuating their businesses with eye-catching decorations, popular for anyone looking to enjoy the season. Shopping malls do their part by bringing Santa Claus to life, transporting him from his cozy little workshop at the North Pole to their very own “snowy” locales amid the hustle and bustle of holiday consumerism.

Traditionally, children participate in the merriment as they ask numerous Santas around town for everything their hearts’ desire, hoping to find their requests wrapped and ready under the tree on Christmas morning.

But aside from the fact that Santa Claus is coming to town, what makes this time of year the most anticipated? Perhaps it’s that winter vacation offers a long respite from school, or maybe that Grandma Rose and Uncle Joe are coming armed with suitcases full of much-wanted gifts, ready to keep children out of the way so their parents can enjoy the holidays.

I met an individual in Los Altos whose family observes the three-day December holiday of Eid-ul-Zuha, a Muslim celebration also known as the Festival of Sacrifice. She explained that Eid, observed by Islamic sects of all sizes, commemorates the willingness of a Muslim individual to devote the body and soul to Islam.

Islamic tradition calls for the holy sacrifice of a camel, cow or goat whose meat is then used to feed the poor. In addition, Muslim families gather for morning prayers, a time of reflection after which the celebrating begins. Throughout the day, gifts are exchanged. Adults attending parties at houses of acquaintances present children with money.

“There are only a few other times in the year like this,” my friend tells me excitedly.

I’ll take her word for it. Maybe one of my New Year’s resolutions in 2009 will be to expand my knowledge of other holidays celebrated around the world.

Sara Raza is a student at Los Altos High School.

 

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