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Winter Wonderland

Winter Spirit Weeks Should Be More Inclusive of Minority Religions

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

When most people think about winter and the holidays, they might envision a break from school, spending time with family and partaking in their traditions. The winter spirit week aims to replicate that festive atmosphere, allowing students to destress and have fun in the week leading up to exams.This is accomplished through various games and themed homeroom breaks that effectively serve their purpose. However, the winter spirit week we have at Maclay tends to focus on Christmas-themed celebrations, rather than a neutral theme. Since spirit weeks serve a big purpose in student interactions, ensuring that all students are included in these celebrations is vital to fostering respect for diverse cultures and holidays.

In general, spirit weeks can have a positive impact on students’ connection, collaboration and creativity. High school is a unique time when individuals from different backgrounds spend years growing up together. This provides many opportunities to learn about each other’s traditions. Beyond daily conversations, students interact through school events which increase during spirit week. The same boost in connection from general spirit weeks applies to holiday or winter spirit weeks. If the history of various winter holidays are highlighted, then students can learn about each other in a fun manner. The focus on traditions during this time can foster feelings of connection between students, making them more open-minded and excited to learn about their peers' holidays.

Maclay’s winter spirit week includes Holiday Pajama Day, Santa vs. Elves, Winter Wonderland, Ugly Sweater Day and Flannel Friday. Themed homeroom breaks, such as gingerbread house building competitions, take place every day of spirit week. Students enjoy getting a break from the usual jeans or Dress for Success attire to dress up in themed clothes. Christmas movies are shown in Langford Hall and people wear their favorite Christmas pajamas and sweaters. While some of the excess in Christmas celebrations is inevitable due to 93% of Maclay celebrating Christmas, there needs to be an increase in more inclusive options.

“I typically either don't celebrate [a holiday] at all, or I do a very low-key, non-religious Hanukkah,” math teacher John Gussaroff said. “I definitely feel a little bit marginalized by the fact that there is a Santa vs. Elves day but no options for non-Christmas celebrating folks.”

While the break activities are fun and serve as stress relievers before exams, one area that could be improved would be to use that time to educate the Maclay community on other holidays that take place during the same time. From Hanukkah to Yule, Kwanzaa to the Lunar New Year, many students may not realize that Christmas is scratching the surface of a time full of various celebrations, each with their own history and symbolism. Since students haven’t had the opportunity to experience a lot of these holidays, informing people of the holiday in some way will broaden their view of the holiday season. Through trivia games or shaping the current spirit week games to have the same effect, learning about other religions or traditions can be fun. An activity that Maclay can implement during the winter spirit weeks is modeling a day similar to the Multicultural Awareness Club’s (MAC) fair. Students would be able to share their holiday traditions with each other, which could work, as seen by the success of the MAC fair.

“I definitely think a Diwali day would be great, plus a mention of Hanukkah, although for religious Jewish people, this is not an important holiday,” Gussaroff said. “Islam doesn't have a major holiday at this time of year, but the birth of Mohammed is the closest and might be something we could work on.”


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Andy Poll

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