Finding a way to celebrate without holidays

December 1, 2015 — by Austin Wang

To sophomore John Noralahi, the significance of winter break has nothing to do with Christmas or New Year’s. As a Jehovah’s Witness, Noralahi does not celebrate popular holidays such as birthdays, Halloween and Easter that they believe are rooted in pagan traditions.

 

To sophomore John Noralahi, the significance of winter break has nothing to do with Christmas or New Year’s. As a Jehovah’s Witness, Noralahi does not celebrate popular holidays such as birthdays, Halloween and Easter that they believe are rooted in pagan traditions.

Noralahi sometimes felt awkward growing up surrounded by holiday situations. In elementary school, his peers excitedly told stories of waking up at the crack of dawn on Christmas day to tear open their presents under the shining Christmas tree, which made him feel as though his parents didn’t care enough to buy him gifts. He was also excluded from many holiday-related activities such as Christmas-themed art projects at school.

As he grew older, though, Noralahi came to understand and be comfortable with his own holiday traditions. Noralahi now realizes that even though his parents may not buy him any gifts on Christmas, they love and care for him.

Even without holiday celebrations, Noralahi’s family has its own enjoyable winter traditions. The family often has reunions at Noralahi’s house or a cousin’s in Idaho where Noralahi can reconnect with his many cousins in Minnesota and Idaho whom he would otherwise see only once or twice a year.

Although some of his extended family members are not Jehovah’s witnesses, they respect Noralahi and his family’s religious beliefs. Instead of having one big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, the extended Noralahi family eats home-cooked feasts every day during their reunions.

During winter vacation, the Noralahi family members also spend time at a beach-side condo in Mexico. Many of Noralahi’s fondest memories took place during his winter trips.

“The one time I went swimming with the dolphins was a really extraordinary experience,” Noralahi said. “Now I really enjoy going into the water and looking for animals.”

Although others may feel that holidays are important in bringing families together, Noralahi believes the large celebrations are unnecessary.

“With holidays, we would get distracted with planning for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Noralahi said. “[Without holidays], it's just our family and us alone, and we have a lot more time to bond, in my opinion.”

 
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