By: Shreya Senthilkumar, Shivani Handa, and Kushal Upreti
People all over the world celebrate different holidays during the fall season. While they may seem different, they all share common themes of unity, family, and festive spirit. Here are three fall holidays that many students at Apex High School celebrate.
Diwali: A fall holiday that Americans may not be aware of is Diwali, the Indian festival of lights. It is a religious holiday celebrated by more than a billion people all over the world, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Newar Buddhists. People celebrate Diwali differently based on their religion and the region their family is from, but the essence of the holiday is the triumph of light over darkness. Everyone has a slightly different story about the origins of Diwali. However, one version of the story explains that Diwali commemorates the day Prince Rama returned from his 14 year exile after defeating the evil Lord Ravan. Diwali festivities take place over 5 days, and this year it was celebrated from November 2nd to November 6th. People prepare for Diwali by cleaning their house, buying new clothes and resolving disagreements that occurred over the past year. The most celebration occurs on the 3rd day of Diwali, called Lakshmi Pooja. On that day, people pray to Ganesh, the god of wisdom as well as Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The hope is that praying to these gods will give people money, as well as the wisdom to not lose their money. People get together with their families, give gifts to each other, and eat Indian sweets, such as rasmalai and gajar ka halwa. They also wear new, brightly colored clothing and set off fireworks. A Diwali tradition that my family has is to line the pathway to our house with tea lights and take pictures together. Shreya Senthilkumar (‘23) said, “Our neighborhood has a lot of Indian people and we all celebrate Diwali together. We go to an Indian restaurant on Diwali and then spend the night setting off fireworks.”
Thanksgiving: Celebrated this year on November 25th, Thanksgiving Day is a classic American holiday centered around family, food, and being grateful for all that one has. While variations of Thanksgiving already existed among the New England colonists, the “first Thanksgiving” is often traced back to 1621. After a harsh winter in 1620, the Plymouth pilgrims received help from Squanto, a Native American from the Pawtuxet Tribe. Squanto taught them how to cultivate crops and hunt for food, and he also introduced them to the Wampanoag Native Americans, who became close allies with the pilgrims. Thanks to all the help they received from the natives, the pilgrims had their first successful harvest, and their governor, William Bradford, organized a celebratory feast with their new allies. This feast included many native cooking techniques and spices, and dishes such as duck, geese, venison, and eel were served. The two groups also participated in many activities together, such as firing guns and running races. While the pilgrims and Wampanoag natives would have a strained relationship later on, the first Thanksgiving was still a rare example of solidarity between English colonists and Native Americans.
Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated in a variety of ways. Many families in America gather their closest family and friends for a feast of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and other modern Thanksgiving dishes. There are also many national events that occur alongside Thanksgiving, such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the annual football games. Many people also have their own unique ways of celebrating Thanksgiving. Amber Wilson (‘23) said that her family usually plays board games together after their Thanksgiving dinner. Allison Hurley (‘24) also mentioned that her family occasionally drives to Alabama to watch the “Iron Bowl” football game, with “Iron Bowl” referring to the rivalry between the Auburn University Tigers and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
Hanukkah: Everyone knows Hanukkah as the winter holiday celebrated by Jewish people around the world, this year it starts early from the 28th of November till the 6th of December. It’s commemorated by Jewish people to celebrate their victory against Antiochus IV Epiphanes (king of the Greek empire in 168 BCE). Epiphanes outlawed all Jewish traditions in the Greek empire and destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, and as a result Jewish people revolted in a three year war where they would eventually win and set up a second temple with what little supply they had left. After the rededication of the second temple, they lit a menorah expecting it to only last for one night, but much to their surprise it continued to flicker for eight nights straight–hence the tradition lasting eight days long.
Although every family has their own way of celebrating Hanukkah, common traditions include lighting the menorah (Hebrew for lamp) which is a lamp that has 7 candles, playing games, and eating food. The most popular game played is Dreidel which uses a four sided spinning top, coincidently named dreidel. The rules for dreidel are fairly straight forward. Players put in their gelt, gold coins (usually chocolate), and spin the top. Each side dictates if the player takes all the gelt, takes half the gelt, takes none, or puts one in. Eating lots of fried foods is also commonplace in many Jewish homes. Amongst the many dishes served in Hanukkah some staples are: potato latkes (crispy fried potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly filled donuts), and rugelach (croissant filled with fruit jelly). Apart from fried foods, brisket and an astronomical amount of applesauce is also served.
No matter what holiday you celebrate, we hope you have a wonderful fall holiday season!