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Winter Holidays Celebrated on Campus
12.14.12 |
Lebanon Valley College’s Annville campus is diverse, and it becomes noticeably more so around the holiday season. With students, faculty, and staff from a variety of religious and ethnic backgrounds, the community celebrates many holiday traditions.

“Winter holidays affirm faith in the midst of despair and discouragement in very powerful ways,” LVC Chaplain Paul Fullmer said. “As trees shed their leaves, as animals hide away, and as darkness increases, winter traditions declare in faith that life will triumph over apparent death. The triumph of light over darkness is a central theme in many holiday traditions during this time of year. Hindu Diwali is a celebration of light in the midst of darkness. The Christmas star and the advent wreath of Christianity affirm light and life during winter.”

As a United Methodist-affiliated institution, the Christian tradition of Christmas is firmly rooted at LVC. The College celebrates with Christmas decorations, and the signature holiday entertainment “Christmas at the Valley,” which features a reading of the “Festival of Nine Lessons” and Christmas carols.

Most Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25, but not all. LVC students Nahed and Hanan Khalil live in the U.S. but hail from Egypt. As Coptic Orthodox Christians, “We celebrate Christmas in Egypt a little differently than we do in the United States,” Nahed said. “Christmas in Egypt is actually on January 7. We normally go to church on the night of January 6 until the following morning for a church service…and spend the day with family and friends.”

LVC’s Hillel organization for Jewish students organizes an annual activity in celebration of Hanukkah (Hillel students pictured at right). They distribute dreidels – four-sided spinning tops with a Hebrew letter on each side – and gelts – chocolate coins traditionally given to children on the festival of Hanukkah.

“Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish holiday in which candles are lit on a menorah each night after sundown,” Fullmer said. “The holiday is religiously insignificant compared to many others on the Hebrew calendar, but it has gained a higher profile in modern times due to its proximity to Christmas.”

While specific religious traditions are central to many winter holidays, others celebrate polytheistic or indigenous Pagan traditions. A group of LVC students with an interest in Paganism (Wiccan, Heathen, Druid) have been meeting throughout the year to discuss and learn about various Pagan traditions. On Friday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., they will discuss the elements of a Yule (winter solstice) ritual in the Fellowship Lounge of Miller Chapel.

There are many holiday traditions observed on campus, but another group of students who are miles away from Annville learn to celebrate in other ways. Students participating in study abroad programs in Spain and Italy have observed holidays for the saints and shopped in giant Christmas markets.

Nicole Joppy has spent her fall semester in Spain, where she is taking classes and absorbing Spanish culture. She has enjoyed the Spanish holiday traditions, which include "Turrones y Polverones", sweets that she describes as "super yummy that are only sold around Christmas time." Also, there is a national lottery that takes place for Christmas called "El Gordo" in which three out of four Spaniards participate. Joppy says that Spanish families "didn't used to use Christmas trees, but now some families have begun to use them."

Some other Spanish traditions Joppy has learned about but will be unable to observe (her study abroad trip ends this month) include "Reyes Magos" (three wise men) on January 6th - the wise men bring presents to good little boys and girls. Also, on New Year's Eve, the Spanish eat 12 grapes for good luck at the stroke of midnight - one grape with each toll of the bell.

These traditions bring diversity to the LVC community and help contribute to a sense of global belonging and understanding on campus, not only during the holiday season, but all year long.

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