Sleepy Hollow Journalism Students Report, Honoring Age-Long Traditions

Please enjoy this piece from SHHS Journalism Student Sophie Simon.

The holidays are a time of celebration and honoring age-long traditions.

During Kwanzaa, participants light the candles of kinara each day for a week to honor African heritage. During Hanukkah, the "Festival of Lights," Jewish people light the candles of the menorah for eight days to commemorate the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and the "miracle of the oil" associated with the Hanukkah story. Christians celebrate Christmas, to honor the birth of Jesus of Nazareth and celebrate its miracle. 

My family celebrates the non-traditional American Christmas, complete with a decorated Christmas tree, a wish list, and cookies for Santa to munch on after he comes down the chimney. But, in general, we don’t go to church like "good Christians" would. But a few years ago, we began a new tradition. Looking for more spirituality in her life, my Mom decided we would try out a church. Not a Catholic, Protestant, or Evangelist church, but one that is actually very unique.  The CUC or Community Unitarian Church is a center for Unitarian Universalism, the result of the blending of many different religions and ideas. When it comes up in conversation, most of my friends do not recognize this concept, and I have to explain.

Unitarian Universalists can be of any origin, gender, or religion and may believe in one god, many gods, or no god. Anyone and everyone may join, and are accepting of one another. No one is told what to think or believe, but has the right to a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” The idea is simple: you strive to become a better person, in mind, body, and spirit.  It may not seem like much of a religion to some, but Unitarian Universalism, to me, is basic spiritual guidance for just living life day-to-day. Anyone can use it, or "follow" it, and I’m glad my family discovered it. 

So now we have our own little tradition. Each Christmas my family goes to CUC, before our Christmas dinner, for service. I spend the entire month of December looking forward to it, which would seem strange, considering it’s church. But there’s something about being with a big group of people, all celebrating, singing, or in silence. My favorite part of the night is "accepting the darkness" when the church is cast into complete blackness, then slowly lit by the congregation’s candles, as each person shares their light with another. The moment is mystical, serene, extraordinary, yet so simple. It’s the moment I remember all year when I think about why I love the holidays so much (besides all the great presents, of course).

When I think of holiday wishes, this is what comes to mind. As cheesy as it sounds, I wish I could share my moment with everyone. Because for me, that moment, that little moment of silence and darkness, pure meditation, is what the holidays are all about.

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About the Author: Sophie Simon