One Strong Community

The holiday season is upon us! This year, Frisco STYLE wanted to take a moment to explore and understand some of the holidays that are celebrated both culturally and religiously by Frisco’s diverse community. 

Diwali – November 5-9, 2018

Diwali, also called “Deepavali,” is five-day festival celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists around the world. In the diverse city of Frisco, there is an ever-growing group of people who celebrate Diwali every year, and, this year, there will be more than 80 families participating in the festival. Meena Radhakrishnan, a native of Northern India who moved to Frisco with her family, shares. “It is great having so many people here to celebrate with and we are getting more families joining us every year. Last year, we only had about 35 families in the group I celebrate with and this year, that number is up to 40 to 45 families,” Mrs. Radhakrishnan says. “It really makes it feel like home. We have a lot of fun together.”

Diwali generally falls between mid-October to mid-November and lasts five days, with the main celebrations falling on the third day, which, this year, is Wednesday, November 7. The date varies each year, according to the Hindu lunar calendar, and can even vary within the same year, depending on where in the world you are celebrating. Day one is Dhanteras (day of fortune), day two is Naraka Chaturdasi (day of knowledge), day three is Diwali (day of light), day four is Annakut (New Year) and day five is Bhai Duj (day of love between siblings). The festival is meant to celebrate the victory of good over evil and triumph of light over darkness. To symbolize this, the celebration is recognized by the cleaning of homes and wearing new clothes, setting off fireworks, illuminating homes with decorations and candles, as well as exchanging gifts and sweets with family and friends. 

Thanksgiving – November 22, 2018

While most know the general history and story of Thanksgiving, who does not love a little refresher? Thanksgiving is a public holiday that has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November since 1789, although it did not become a recognized federal holiday until 1863, when President Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November would henceforth be known as a day to give thanks. 

Making time to give thanks and share food with loved ones after a successful growing season has long been the practice of harvest festivals around Europe, but Americans also trace the holiday back to what we now refer to as the “first Thanksgiving.” This celebration occurred in 1621, when the settlers of the Plymouth Plantation shared a meal with the Native American Wampanoag tribe after the tribal leader taught the Pilgrims how to grow corn and served as an interpreter between the two groups. 

While it is not known exactly what they ate at the first Thanksgiving, historical records indicate that wild turkey was plentiful in the region, making it a symbol and staple for the holiday today. Additionally, they shared corn brought by the Wampanoag tribe, though, in those days, it was most likely boiled and turned into a corn mush, rather than served on the cob. Some historians speculate that shellfish may have been on the table, given its abundance in the New England area. And, of course, no Thanksgiving would be complete without potatoes and pumpkin pie! (You can flip through the magazine to catch a few of the recipes that will be on our tables this Thanksgiving). 

Hanukkah –December 2-10, 2018

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that celebrates the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem following a victory of the Maccabees over the Greeks, which granted them religious freedom. Prior to the Jewish peoples’ triumph, the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire had oppressed any one attempting to observe any religion deviating from Greek customs and the worship of Greek Gods. Hanukkah is observed for eight days and eight nights to honor the miracle of the cruse of oil, when, after the liberation of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Maccabees lit a lamp in celebration that had only enough oil for one day, but went on to burn for eight consecutive nights.

Hanukkah occurs on the same day within the Hebrew calendar, but can fall anywhere from late November to December on the Gregorian calendar. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Jews celebrate their religious freedom by every night of Hanukkah lighting a menorah with nine branches, each branch symbolizing the eight nights, with the center branch being used to light the candles, and coming together to honor the triumph over their oppressors. Additionally, traditional foods such as latkes, jelly donuts and food fried in oil is typically enjoyed. There is an array of songs written about Hanukkah that are sung, as well as games like dreidel are played after lighting the candles. 

On Friday, December 7, Shir Tikvah, the Reform Synagogue of Frisco, will host a Hanukkah Celebration and Shabbat Service. “Each year, the families who are members of the synagogue are asked to bring in their personal menorahs so they may all light them together on this one evening,” says Marian Nelson, the president of the synagogue. Even if you are not a member, anyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. The service is led by Rabbi Heidi Coretz. 

Christmas – December 25, 2018

Christmas is an annual holiday observed around the world that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is a public holiday celebrated religiously in majority by Christians, but has also come to be celebrated culturally by many non-Christians, particularly in the U.S. 

The nativity story of Jesus is told in the gospels of Luke and Matthew in the New Testament, with only minor differences between the books. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, to his mother, Mary (who became pregnant through the Holy Spirit) and her husband, Joseph. Jesus was born in a manger, as there was no room for Mary and Joseph in town. Still, shepherds came to worship Him as the Messiah, while angels announced the Savior’s birth. The day of his birth, now celebrated on Christmas, was an event of huge significance, as Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God, and through Him, believers are offered the promise of eternal life. 

In addition to the religious aspects recognized, for many Americans, Christmas has become a cultural holiday celebrated through ornament-adorned trees, lights covering roofs, mistletoe, the exchange of gifts on Christmas morning and a shared meal with loved ones in the evening. 

“At Frisco Bible Church, we host Advent Services each Sunday leading up to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we host multiple services throughout the day, including an 11 p.m. service,” Reverend Wayne Braudrick says. “Our services are open to all, regardless of if you are a member or not, and we love seeing extended family visiting for the holiday season.”

Kwanzaa – December 26, 2018 –
January 1, 2019

Kwanzaa is a global weeklong celebration that honors African heritage in African-American and Pan-African culture and is observed every year beginning December 26 and ending January 1, with a feast and exchange of gifts with family and loved ones.

Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966, after African-American professor Maulana Karenga created it.

African-American families celebrate Kwanzaa by decorating their homes with traditional African art and décor and wearing African garb. During the meal, guests typically share libations out of a communal chalice.

Bodhi Day – January 13, 2019

Bodhi Day is a Buddhist holiday that celebrates that the Buddha experienced enlightenment, or “bodhi,” in Sanskrit. The path to enlightenment for the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, varies by text. Some say Gautama Buddha made a vow to Nirvana and Earth to find the source of suffering or die trying. Others believe he was harassed by the demon of illusion while meditating. Some simply say that he gradually entered into deeper states of meditation, confronting the nature of self. Those discrepancies aside, all texts agree that in the early morning, Venus rose into the sky and he experienced Nirvana and became enlightened, making him now a Buddha or “Awakened One.” 

The way this day is celebrated varies among Buddhist sects, but all are different ways to honor the Buddha’s achievement of Nirvana. Some Buddhists also celebrate with a traditional meal of tea and cakes plus readings. 

No matter what holidays you are celebrating this year in Frisco, enjoy a happy Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Bodhi Day! May we all remember to respect and care for one another as this happy and often exciting time of year approaches.

Rachel Beaird is a recent University of Arkansas graduate, travel enthusiast and a public relations aficionado.