Winter holidays, traditions reflect diversity of DePaul Prep community

When the calendar turns from summer to fall, thoughts of the holidays to come in the next few months fill people’s minds. A common December holiday is Christmas, which celebrates the birth of Jesus whom Christians believe is the son of God. Celebrations include naivety scenes, Christmas Dinner, Mass, presents, and visits from ‘Santa’. At DePaul Prep, there are numerous events to celebrate winter holidays such as the Tree lighting ceremony, ornament making, and caroling. However, members of the DePaul Prep community celebrate many other holidays as well.

One such day is Saint Nicholas Day, which is celebrated in Germany by children putting out their shoes and awaiting Saint Nicholas to fill their shoes with treats if they were good that year. It is celebrated on December 6 every year. Lily Buol, a freshman at DePaul Prep, likes Saint Nicholas Day because “It’s like a preview to Christmas.” Buol explained she enjoys celebrating holiday cheer early on in December. 

Ms. Wendy Samuel, a Theology teacher at DePaul Prep, expressed that holidays are all about spending time with family and being together. She also shared her family’s traditions and holidays. Samuel’s family celebrates Christmas and New Year’s, and there is also a carnival between the 26th of December and 2nd of January. She said, “For me growing up, Christmas was almost always intertwined with the carnival. So street dancing and people coming back to St. Kitts and to the islands to celebrate Christmas at home and the carnival. So for me it was always the celebration of both of those.” On New Year’s, Samuel and her family would go to Church and ring in the new year. 

Finally, Samuel explained that for her, Christmas helps people to never forget important people in their lives and their traditions. It is a time to look back at joyous memories and keep traditions going. “It helps me to never forget,” she said. “It helps me to remember. Like right now, my dad passed away in 2017 and it’s been painful when we have gathered and my mom is there and he’s not, but it is a way for me to remember him. And he was a jokester, and even though he is not there, we still sometimes play pranks on each other so for me it is remembering where I come from and so I am passing on these traditions to my daughter.” 

Mr. Chris Corbett, the Mandarin teacher at DePaul Prep, celebrates a holiday called Dongzhi, which is the Winter Solstice. It is on the Chinese Calendar. He also celebrates Chinese New Year/ Lunar New Year, which changes date every year. In addition, Corbett celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival from Chinese Culture where there is a harvest moon. It typically takes place in either October or November. 

Corbett’s favorite holiday tradition revolves around traditions from China and revolving around Chinese New Year. “My wife is Chinese so my in-laws are Chinese and I have a Chinese aunt as well so every time we celebrate Chinese New Year in China, the big thing is to make dumplings together,” Corbett explained. “We make dumplings by hand and you’ll make hundreds at a time and then you watch the big CCTD Chinese New Year Program. It’s like four hours long with singing and dancing and acrobats and kung fu and you name it. It’s like the ultimate variety show. It’s really cool.” 

Mr. Corbett also said that it’s important to experience culture and know that celebrating traditions keeps it alive. “It’s a way to take part in culture,” he said. “Lots of people think culture is just a thing or a list of things but it’s actually what you do. And if you do it together, then you’re sharing and spreading the tradition and appreciating it and passing it on to other people.” 

Finally Ms. Kris Gevorgyan, one of DePaul Prep’s new English teachers, explained her family’s holidays in Russia and the traditions she carried over from Russia. She and her family celebrated New Years in Russia when she lived there but now Celebrate Christmas in the United States as well. For New Year’s they have a big dance party and celebration to ring in the New Year. “My mom still gets everyone little New Years gifts, kind of like stocking stuffers that others do on Christmas,” she said.

Gevorgyan enjoys sharing the best memories from the year and said, “My favorite tradition is that one year I made a yearly family calendar of all of our best memories from that year. Even since then, I have been in charge of collecting my family’s best memories and everyone opens their calendars together on Christmas Morning.” 

Gevorgyan explained she values the family time that the holidays allow people to have. “Time with family is so precious, so having everyone reminisce on the best parts of our family trips or birthdays is so heartwarming,” she said. “I always include hilarious pictures of my niece and nephew, since they grow up so fast.”

These are just some of the wonderful traditions and holidays around the world that our own DePaul Prep family celebrates. While each holiday and family tradition is different, what makes the time special is the happiness and memories gained.