October 2011

More Than Just Christmas

A guide to other important holidays: Hanukka, Ramadan, Kwanza, and Boxing Day

You want to hear something scary? You do? Good, but you should probably sit down right now. Did you know there are only eight weeks until Christmas!?!?! There’s something mildly wrong with that statement. While the country is predominantly Christian, there are other holidays to be celebrated, yet how often do you hear “X number of days until Kwanza” or “X number of days until Hanukkah”? Then answer is that you do not. So, let’s use this as an opportunity to learn about upcoming holidays that some of us may not be fully aware of, but are celebrated by other races and ethnicities each year around this time.

 

*Hanukka is a recognized Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days. It commemorates the rededication of the Holy temple in Jerusalem during a revolt in the second century.  It begins on the twenty-fifth day of the Kislev on the Hebrew calendar which could cause it to begin in November or December. It is observed through the lighting of a candle on the Menorah on each night of the holiday. It is said the reason for the lighting is for the “illumination of the house without” to remind all of the blessing of the holiday. There are three blessings performed over the candles. There are also gifts given, though charity is encouraged overall. As with most traditional holidays, there are specific songs, prayers and foods associated with the holiday. (http://naomi-rockler-gladen.suite101.com/hanukkah-101-faq-a33914)

 

*Ramadan is an Islamic holiday that takes place in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Those who celebrate Ramadan fast for every day of the month by abstaining from food, drink and some physical needs during the day. It is seen as a way to purify and cleanse the soul and turn attention to God while focusing on self-sacrifice. Muslims use the holiday to revaluate life in regards to Islamic guidance and frequently make peace with those who have wronged them, strengthen ties with family and friends, and eliminate bad habits. Reading the Qur’an is encouraged during the month and special prayers called Tarawih, are held at mosques ever night of the month. Like Hanukkah, charity is greatly encouraged. (http://www.holidays.net/ramadan/story.htm)

Wait, President Obama is not black?

Self-defining ethnicity and race

As a mixed race person who makes a point to inform everyone about her race, I take a slight issue with the fact that President Obama has not made a concerted effort to correct the public regarding his ethnicity. However, I understand why he might not. Unlike me, he looks black and moreover, the “One-Drop Rule” is more apparent in the tone of his skin more than it is mine.

What I recently learned was that the term initially started out being used for children of Blacks and American Indians in Virginia in 1705. Most who are familiar with the term are more inclined to know that in the early 1900's, a law was adopted by many states that stated if people had more than one eighth African ancestry (in some states it was one forth), they were considered to be African Black. Much of this started in during slavery and later with Jim Crow segregation. An interesting note about the “One-Drop Rule” is that it only applied to Blacks in the United States. Foreigners have often asked why Americans recognize those who have a multi-racial background by their true heritage and instead lump them into a category based on their skin color.