Winter break: a cherished time anticipated by students, teachers, and their families from the day school starts in early September every year. Students look forward to relaxation, time with family, friends, and often religious or family traditions which coincide with the two week break.
Junior Nour Ahmad spent the break in town, “I try to mostly just relax, and take time to chill,” she said. “I [also] had time to catch up and get a lot of school work done,” Nour continued.
Nour is originally from Jordan, and “most of my family lives back in Jordan. We have big meals, typically lunch or dinner with family who live in the area,” she said.
“We are Islamic,” Nour said, “And there are no Islamic religious holidays over winter break. They revolve around a different calendar.” The Islamic calendar is currently on year 1452 AH, or 1452 years from when Mohammed and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. The calendar is also a lunar calendar, where the twelve months are different sizes than the western Gregorian calendar. “While there are no holidays which coincide with the break, we still go to ‘jumu’ah,’ or Friday prayer at the local mosque with the community on both Fridays of the break,” Nour said.
Overall, Nour “enjoyed her break,” and ended the year spending “New Years Eve with some friends,” she said.
Senior Sebastian Suarez-Vasquez also spent most of the break in town. “I’m a Christian, my family is Catholic. We went to the services over break, and I celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas at home. My parents and I moved here from Venezuela, and it is just us in America. No other family,” he said.
Sebastian remained active over break, “I played soccer with friends, and I practiced baseball,” he said. “I also went to some Quince De Años, which are Latino parties, with some friends and hung out at some friends’ houses.”
To celebrate the end of the year, “I went to Kings Dominion with my parents for New Years Eve,” said Sebastian.
Travel is usually the beginning of the break for junior Ben Edlavitch. “We typically travel the week before Christmas, which is a tradition we started when we were living in Asia,” Ben said. “We lived in Japan, Korea, and Singapore. I can’t really remember Korea because it was so long ago, and Singapore was alright around Christmas, it’s a very multicultural city but no matter where you go you can’t escape it, especially Japan. They go crazy for Christmas,” he continued.
“We were at Wintergreen [Resort] for the first week of break, from that Saturday to Wednesday, so we came back Christmas Day.”
While in Wintergreen, Ben’s family began their Hanukkah celebrations, which run according to the Hebrew calendar, or the 22nd to the 30th of December for 2019. “At Wintergreen, the houses all have Christmas trees. So we did our Hanukkah stuff under the Christmas tree while we were there,” he said.
For Ben’s family, this meant “Making latkes, playing Dreidel (that starts a little bit before Hanukkah, just because it’s fun), and typically we open a present everyday, so we spread it out,” he said. “We decorate the house a little, we have a sign that goes on our door that says ‘Oi to the world’ instead of joy to the world, we put up little stickers on our window, it’s very corny,” he said with a laugh. “We’re Reformed Jews, there’s not very much religion in what we do. It’s more of a family tradition and heritage,” he elaborated.
“On Christmas Day, we always go to Chinese for dinner, because they’re the only places that are open on Christmas in America, as the joke goes. We typically go to see Christmas lights, in Maymont or Lewis Ginter, not like the tacky lights. We typically have family in town over break whenever we can,” Ben said.
“I didn’t really do anything for New Years. We went to Indian that night, which I felt was a nice way to end our very multicultural decade,” he concluded.
The two week vacation was a snapshot of the diverse cultures celebrated in the Freeman community.