A Different World

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A Diwali celebration in India.

Hannah Webb, Staff Writer

As we all know, Thanksgiving and holiday season is rapidly approaching. The season of cooked turkeys, sparkling lights, decorated houses, and Christmas trees set up in living rooms. At least that’s how we typically see it as Americans. We tend to see the holiday season as a one-sided topic, only remembering the traditions we celebrate. However, for those living in the United States who come from different cultures and ethnic groups, the holiday season often has a vastly different connotation and meaning.

Krusha Shah, whose family originated in India, approaches Thanksgiving and Christmas in a completely different way. Her family still celebrates many of traditional Indian holidays and celebrations, bringing an entirely new outlook on the concept of the holiday season.

The Indian new year, Diwali, just passed on Sunday, October 30. Whereas October for Americans typically holds images of Halloween and ghosts, October for Indians means something completely different.

“Around this time of year, you want to bring light into your life, and make your life brighter. You don’t want to surround yourself with negative thought,” Shah said about Diwali.

This description of the October time period seems to run completely counter to the American perception. October holds hope and light for Indians, where for us it tends to relate to negative thought, hauntings, and mystery.

“During Diwali we light up matches, candles, and lots of lights around our house. Typically it’s celebrated through prayer,” Shah said.

Diwali seems to identify more with our December/January seasonal holidays of Christmas and New Year’s. During Christmas, as many of you know, Americans string up lights inside and on their houses, and associate the holiday with happiness. New Year’s for Americans is associated with hope. Despite the vast differences between Indian culture and American culture, there are still striking similarities between the two that illustrate the universality of joy and hope.

As far as Christmas goes, Indians do celebrate a certain equivalent of it, called Janmashtami.

“Janmashtami is basically the same thing as Christmas. It celebrates the birth of Krishna, which is a God a lot of Indians believe in,” Shah said of Janmashtami.

This concept of “Christmas” in India is another similarity between the two cultures. However, Janmashtami is typically celebrated in August, earlier than the American Christmas.

“For some people, an old tradition is making a hundred different dishes. Basically a bunch of families come together to make them,” Shah said.

In this perspective, Janmashtami is comparable to both the American Thanksgiving and Christmas. It celebrates the birth of a widely-praised god and typically lots of food is made throughout the proceedings.

The perception of the holiday season around the world varies widely from culture to culture, but elements that all people can identify with such as optimism, faith, and happiness predominate throughout many cultures, connecting all people in the world.