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From Hanukkah Lights to Nativity Scenes: 5 Faiths' Unique Takes on the Christmas Spirit

The Holidays are a time for being with friends and family and celebrating the birth of Christ, but sometimes we forget to acknowledge the other religions and what they celebrate. Some religions like the Islam do not even celebrate Christmas and then you have others, the Buddhists, who use the holiday to practice their religion of spreading peace and goodwill. In no particular order, I would like to demonstrate a little culture about the ways Christmas is celebrated or is not celebrated throughout five different religions.

During the Christmas season, Christians celebrate Christmas in numerous ways. Families and churches from all around will set up a Nativity Scene or a mini replica of the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The scene is composed of the baby Jesus, the virgin mother Mary, the father Joseph, three wise men, and sometimes some animals that would belong in a stable. Churches that practice Christianity will perform Christmas plays that describe the night of the birth of baby Jesus in a manger. Catholic churches will have a midnight mass on the night of Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth. In the month of December, aside from just the church festivities, people will sing traditional Christmas carols, buy Christmas trees, and place wrapped presents under the tree to exchange at a Christmas party or on Christmas morning.

Muslims don't celebrate
The Muslim community has two celebrations that they conduct within a year and Christmas is not one of the holidays. Along with Christmas being the celebration to memorialize the birth of Jesus, Muslims do believe in Jesus but do not believe he is God or the son of God. According to the Islamic religion, Jesus’ birth was either in March or September based on the season indications in the Bible. Another viewpoint of the Christmas holiday is that Christmas is really just a new purposed pagan celebration which is not supported by the Islamic religion (Paganism).

Hindus in America, for a while until the population of Hindus increased, celebrated Christmas to adjust into American culture. Even with population growth, some Hindus still participate in the festivities of gift giving and parties. Aside from how Hindus celebrate in America, the Hindus in India do celebrate in December with a five-day holiday called Pancha Ganapati. The celebration begins on December 21 to celebrate the elephant-headed lord of culture and new beginnings. Some festivities the Hindus partake in are outings, picnics, gift giving, feasts, decorating their homes with pine boughs or durva grass, and putting up lights and ornaments. The major portion of the celebration is putting up a statue of Ganesha in the home and dressing the statue for each day of the celebration in colors of yellow, blue, red, green, and orange.

Christmas is a time of gift giving and practicing peace and goodwill toward mankind. Buddhists can practice their religion and see the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhists celebrate the holidays by hanging up Christmas decorations in their temples, sending cards to loved ones, holding late night vigils, and occasionally listen to Christmas music.

Hanukkah and Christmas
The Jewish do not celebrate Christmas, but instead, celebrate a holiday know as Chanukah (Hanukkah). Chanukah is an eight-day festival of lights that is celebrated by a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers, and foods (fried). Chanukah memorializes the small army of Jews that defeated the mighty Greek Army in the second century BCE. The Jewish reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and as a symbol of reclaiming the temple, the menorah was to be lit; however, only a single cruse of olive oil was left. Even with a little bit of olive oil, the menorah was still lit and stayed lit for eight days. To remember this wonder, Chanukah was created.
What's Not To Love? But These Reasons Are Why Christmas Is Best

There are so many reasons why I love the Christmas time! Check out the joy that makes this time of year truly special, from festive traditions to heartwarming moments. Enjoy!
Everything is so colorful and jolly. All the stores have bright lights and sparkly decorations. Homes have Christmas trees glistening through the window with bright lights, snowflakes, and ice sickles from the rooftop.

House front yard decorated with Christmas lights and inflatables.
I am the type of person who does not like eggnog, but I love some hot coco. Add milk and some little marshmallows to make it incredible. Putting it in a cute little Christmas mug makes it even better.

White ceramic mug full of hot chocolate with marshmellow and cinamon topping. Photo by Katie Azi on Unsplash

In North Carolina, it hardly snows during winter, but I have seen snow. I love playing in the snow, making forts, and building snowmen. I love watching my dogs play in the snow. It is so beautiful and breathtaking.
Snowman on snow covered ground during daytime. Photo by Vladimir Haltakov on Unsplash

I enjoy wrapping up on the couch with tons of blankets and watching a good Christmas movie. My favorite is Home Alone and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. Those always put me in the mood.
Home Alone blessing food scene GIF Giphy

There is something about putting together a gift. Wrapping it up and putting a pretty bow on top is so pleasing. Then to put it under the tree makes it even more beautiful.
Assorted-color gift boxes under Christmas tree. Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash

Nothing honestly beats spending quality time with your family and friends. The conversations are always funny and entertaining. You create more memories as you reminisce on the old ones. Laughter is in the air, and so is a good time.
Girl and woman hugging each other in front of christmas tree Photo by S&B Vonlanthen on Unsplash
This is when the best food is cooked. You get to fill up and eat more than you ever had. You get to have a wonderful home-cooked meal and gather around the table with friends and family. This is also the time when there are so many desserts that are so yummy.

Christmas homemade foodchristmas food StableDiffusion
I think it is important to give back to your community. You can go to the soup kitchen, volunteer with an organization, or adopt a kid to give gifts to. All of these are great ideas, and there are plenty more, depending on where you live.
People volunteering standing in front of brown cardboard boxes. Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

I get so giddy and excited when I buy a gift for a loved one. I imagine their reaction and what they’re going to feel inside when they unwrap their gift. They will see the sentiment and thought that I put into the gift.
A group of paper gift bags. Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Finding the perfect Christmas tree is the best. You search long and hard and maybe even chop your own one down. Then you get to put it up, and the whole house smells of the tree. You get to decorate the tree and watch it come alive. This is when the magic comes alive.

Man carrying christmas tree from the tree farm. Photo by Julianna Arjes on Unsplash

I think everyone enjoys opening presents. I cannot wait to open gifts from loved ones because it really is the thought that counts. I enjoy seeing their faces when I open the gift because they bought it thinking of me, which is what matters most.

A little boy sitting on the floor opening a gift. Photo by Marina Abrosimova on Unsplash

There is such a thing as the Christmas spirit. Everyone is jolly and happy. The giving mood is increased, and being friendly becomes the norm. Smiles and laughter are coming from everyone.
Couple with their dog decorating the Christmas tree. Photo by Caleb Fisher on Unsplash

Christmas is my favorite holiday for many reasons. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas
While I most certainly do not know everything, I feel like I know more than the average 21-year-old about vino, so I wrote this beginner's wine appreciate course to help YOU navigate the wine world and drink like a pro.

four wine glassesfour wine glasses Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash
A lot of people our age (21-25) don't really drink wine because they want to appreciate it, they drink it to get "f*cked up" in a "classy" way.

***Reality check: if you're still blacking out every time you drink, it's not classy OR healthy***

So if you're reading this article, this probably means you want to learn to appreciate wine a little bit more, or learn a few new facts that you can whip out in front of your Barefoot chugging friends (I like Barefoot), or maybe you're just looking to feel more comfortable going into a winery's tasting room. It can be intimidating when your server is whipping out terms like "oak-aged" or "tartrate crystals."

I started working at a winery recently, and my employers have really taken me into the industry fold. I'm going to be learning and doing everything: from tasting room, to harvesting, to making, filtering, sampling (yes, that's right ;)) and so on. I had always known that wineries work hard to make their product, but I'm only just learning that creating the right taste practically a science.

While I most certainly do not know everything, I feel like I know more than the average 21-year-old about vino, so I wrote this article to help YOU navigate the wine world!

Part I of IV: advice for when you first start going out to wineries.

brown wooden barrels in a roombrown wooden barrels in a room Photo by Don Stouder on Unsplash
1. Figure out what kind of wine drinker you might be.
If you haven't ever been to a winery, and the most experience you have drinking it is at parties or Grandma's for holiday dinner, you should start your wine journey by figuring out what kind of wine you *might* gravitate to.

But Alexis, isn't the point of going to a winery to experience new wines?
Well, yes. But you can probably narrow down what kind of flight you would want to try if you know what kind of drinks you like: do you have a sweet tooth? Are you more of a dirty martini kind of person? If you like sweet drinks, tell your server that. Not a fan of sugar? They'll set up dry tasting.
Not sure about about either? Most wineries offer middle-of-the-road wine styles that may be a little sweet, but not too dry either. We call them off-dry.

2. Pick a place based on your choices.
Part of the reason I suggested you contemplate what kind of wine drinker you might be is because based on what your taste profile may be, you will want to start off with a winery that will match your palate.
I live in Maryland, and my state has the wonderful nickname of "America in miniature." We have a lot of little microclimates, which change what kind of grapes work best in what region. The winery where I work currently has a strong showing of sweet wines, whereas some of the other wineries in the neighboring county have a better dry wine production.

NOTE: It is important to know that just because a winery may have a reputation for making good sweet reds or good dry whites does not mean they don't have good wines in general. What another person hates, you might love and vice versa!

3. Go with friends!
That's just because it's more fun! And a lot or wineries will have an amazing atmosphere, especially if the tasting room is on the property where the grapes are grown. It makes a great little getaway. Also, you may or may not need a DD.

4. Trust the server.
Odds are the person who is running your tasting knows a little bit about wine and has served plenty of people with all kinds of palates. Don't be afraid to tell them that you aren't sure what your taste profile might be, and that you have some idea. They'll guide you along based on that particular winery's offerings.
Some wineries offer a dry flight and a sweet flight, or a make your won flight for a set price. The ones with make your own can be hard to navigate, because there are often lots of choices! But again, ask questions! Your server can help you find something you'll like.

NOTE: Some wineries have a set list of tastings for the day, but if something that they offer in the bottle piques your interest, ask to try it! The worst thing they can say is no.

5. Let yourself experiment!
The greatest thing about going to a winery is that you get to try new things. You might find that you really like oak-aged dry whites and sweet reds. You might also be pleasantly surprised that you like something you thought you would hate.

6. Buy the wines you like at the winery.
It's cheaper to buy a local wine at the winery itself because you don't have to pay the up-charge a liquor store would charge so they can make a profit. Plus, you can share a bottle that you picked yourself from the winery with your friends and family. (It always feels cool to be able to say that you picked it out!)
That being said, sometimes price does NOT indicate the quality of a wine! I love some $100 wines, but I love some of my $10 wines just as much. What is important is that YOU find a wine YOU like!
Part II of IV: What to buy at the liquor store

white and black labeled bottleswhite and black labeled bottles Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash
You can, of course, continue going to wineries and buying your bottles there, but you'll still want to try other styles and brands. That's when you get to go to the liquor store and be intimidated once more, this time by the variety of selection you'll have.
So what do you do when you don't get a chance to try a wine before you buy it? Take a leap of faith, yes, but you can still take an educated guess!

1. Remember what you like.
Based on your previous experience, you should look at the labels of bottles and read the blurbs liquor stores have written/printed about the wine and try to find a wine you're willing to try.

2. Ask for help.
Some liquor stores that have a large selection of wine probably have a staff that can answer a few questions, one of them being "what sweet/dry/white/red wines do you have?"

3. Google is #bae.
You should absolutely use Google if you can't find anything written about the wine on or around the bottle. If it is something that really intrigues you, look up the winery that produced it because usually their website will tell you about the wine's flavor.
NOTE: Do NOT look up the variety/blend of wine that it is and ask Google if such-and-such is a sweet/dry wine, because not everyone makes their varietal/blended wine the same (i.e. Winery A might make their Riesling more sweet than Winery B). Avoid the problem by going to the Winery's website.

Part III of IV: The restaurant menu

menu-printed board with brown frame on tableMenu-printed board with brown frame on table Photo by Stella de Smit on Unsplash
1. Unless otherwise stated, most wine menus go White Wines, Red Wines, Dessert Wines with the top of each category being the driest, and the bottom being the sweetest.
Some menus will go by region, and others (menus that are very small) will just go dry to sweet, regardless of color.

2. The first number is the glass price, the second is the bottle price.
So if you see this:
Alexis B's VWinery 2009 Merlot, Maryland……….. 7/20
You know that the glass price is $7 and the bottle price is $20.
3. Ask your server for a pairing.
Depending on the restaurant, some serving staff may be very good with pairings, or know their menu well enough to tell you what you should pair with what.

NOTE: The old adage "white wines go with white meats, red wines go with red meats" is pretty true, but I've had some fabulous white pairings with red meats before.

4. Ask your friends what they like, and buy a bottle.
It will be so much cheaper if you can all agree on one wine and buy the bottle rather than buying by the glass. This also holds true for buying glasses v bottles at wineries.

Part IV of IV: Lingo

people tossing their clear wine glassespeople tossing their clear wine glasses Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

Congratulations! You have survived my crash course Wine Appreciation 101! That wasn;'t so hard, was it? It's easy to feel overwhelmed, but just remember: every person who know a lot about wine started out knowing absolutely nothing and making some terrible pairings.

Now go and experience some great wine, show off your knowledge, and be sure to grab a glass for me 😉
a group of people holding footed glassesgroup of people holding footed glasses Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

Who doesn't love ice cream? People from all over the world enjoy the frozen dessert, but different countries have their own twists on the classic treat.
Gelato from
Gelato, perhaps one of the best-known varieties of ice cream from around the world, has less fat, more sugar and less air than other frozen desserts.

turkey ice cream
In Turkey, dondurma’s elastic and stretchy texture and resistance to melting make it extremely popular with street vendors, who play with the ice cream before serving it to customers.
ice cream from japan
The small ball is actually ice cream in the middle surrounded by a sticky rice cake.
Halva Ice
The Israeli treat is made with sesame flavored halva, a compact honey-like candy, which is popular across the Middle East and Asia.

ice cream from
Ice cream in Iran is often served with pasta noodles, rose water, lime juice and pistachios.

Germany’s take on the dessert is a spin on a dish of spaghetti: vanilla ice cream is run through a pasta maker to mimic spaghetti, strawberry sauce is drizzled on top to mimic tomato sauce and coconut flakes, shredded almonds or white chocolate is used to mimic the Parmesan cheese.

Mexico Ice
Paletas are extremely similar to popsicles, except that they must contain fresh fruit to be classified as such.
India Ice
Kulfi is similar to ice cream, though its increased density and creaminess allows it to be molded and served on a popsicle stick and topped with pistachios.
Thailand Ice Cream
Thailand’s i tim pad, which is often sold by street vendors, is the rolled ice cream that has become a novelty dessert here in America.
China Ice Cream
Though supposedly invented in the United States, fried ice cream has become popular in Asia, and the Chinese version uses ice cream flavors like green tea and red bean, fried in a tempura batter.
Greece Ice Cream
Greek ice cream is a mix of gelato and dondurma, which makes sense considering its location in relation to Italy and Turkey.

Philippines ice
Although it sounds like it, the Filipino dessert is not sorbet. It is cheese-flavored ice cream made with coconut milk and served in a bread bun.
Malasya ice cream
The ice cream variety found in Malaysia and Singapore is actually shaved ice topped with cooked red beans and evaporated milk.
south korea ice cream
The cone, made with crushed corn, resembles a churro, and ice cream is served on both ends of the J-shaped cone.
United States Ice Cream
The U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand have everything that you can imagine. Just think of all the varieties we have: the typical hard ice cream, frozen yogurt, Dippin’ Dots, soft serve, sorbet, Italian ice, custard ice cream, sherbet, snow cones, ice pops, milkshakes, ice cream cookie sandwiches and those skinny ice pop things in the plastic that you have to cut and no one knows the name of it, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Happy Moments to Brighten Your Day!

As any other person on this planet, it sometimes can be hard to find the good in things. However, as I have always tried my hardest to find happiness in any and every moment and just generally always try to find the best in every situation, I have realized that your own happiness is much more important than people often think. Finding the good in any situation can help you to find happiness in some of the simplest and unexpected places.

Many people often think that happiness can be found by creating the largest social media pool, trying to be someone that they are not in order to be accepted or even having the nicest car or the biggest house. But happiness does not come from these material or “fake” things. It comes from strong connections with people you love, having gratitude and consideration for the people around you and finding happiness in the most unexpected and often overlooked places.

Constantly reminding yourself that your happiness is one of the most important things and sometimes having to put your happiness first is something that should be happening every day. Personally, my happiness comes from thousands of things ranging from reading a book all the way to vacationing to the ocean and everything in between. Also, I find happiness in the happiness of others and seeing others in content, but this also sometimes means that I do not put my happiness first.
Everyone has their flaws and many people are like me—forgetting to put their happiness before others. Therefore, in order to give you just a simple idea of how easy it is to find happiness in the smallest of places, here are 100 reminders of happiness that surround you each and every day. This list also purposes for each of you to think of your own reminders that make you happy and to tell yourself that your happiness is important and that you should always find happiness in every situation in the most unexpected places.

Self-Love is the Best Love…
stars in the sky during night time Photo by Olena Bohovyk on Unsplash
smiling man carrying child and playing Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash
pink and white flowers with green leaves Photo by W.S. Coda on Unsplash
person's feet on seashoreperson's feet on seashore Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash
Faith over fear scrabble Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Songs About Being 17
Grey's Anatomy Quotes
Vine Quotes
4 Leaf Clover
Self Respect
1. Brittany Morgan, National Writer's Society
2. Radhi, SUNY Stony Brook
3. Kristen Haddox, Penn State University
4. Jennifer Kustanovich, SUNY Stony Brook
5. Clare Regelbrugge, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
® 2023 ODYSSEY







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