The Office for Inclusive Excellence took the commuter lounge in the Smith Student Center around the world Thursday, Dec. 6 to celebrate different holidays celebrated all over the globe.
Featuring educational information about different holidays, festive food and performances from the American Sign Language Club, Holidays Around the World brought students together just in time to have fun before finals begin.
“I feel like it’s a great way for students to understand that there are more holidays than just Christmas,” said Keshia Booker, assistant director of multicultural development in the OIE. “Traditionally in western culture, we really focus a lot on Christmas and this event gives students, especially college students who are looking for chances to have diverse opportunities, a chance to see something outside of their typical culture.”
Preparation for Holidays Around the World, according to Booker, involved inviting student organizations to participate, figuring out which group would do which holiday, collaborating with AVI to provide food and just letting the organizations learn about their holidays.
“We ask student organizations to take on a holiday that would be different than their own or not associated with the culture behind their organization, and they prepare trifolds,” Booker said. “The OIE believes that the best way to get students involved is for students to see other students being involved, so that’s why we ask our student organizations and prominent leaders on campus to sort of help support us in this process.”
Booker said one of her favorite parts of this annual event is watching the student organizations choose and research their holidays; for example, the SRU chapter of NAACP, which is not typically viewed as a Jewish organization, chose Hanukkah and chooses Hanukkah every year.
“It’s exciting to see the students be excited about the holidays that they choose and watching them find new ways to express their holidays,” Booker said.
In addition to NAACP, other organizations involved with this year’s event were the Student Government Association (SGA), the Black Action Society, the Student Organization of Latinos/Hispanics and Allies, and the International Club.
President of the SRU chapter of NAACP and junior developmental psychology major Kemoni Farmer, said the organization was interested in learning about and presenting Hanukkah because the executive board wanted to show solidarity with the Jewish community, especially this semester. The group also enjoyed learning about the holiday, and Farmer said the executive board even played dreidel together and will exchange gifts next week, in honor of the holiday.
“Our organization, in general, is founded off of education and unifying groups, and I feel like this event as a whole just brings everyone together, especially cultures that we ourselves don’t even celebrate,” Farmer said of Holidays Around the World. “We’re learning about cultures and we’re able to teach others about them, and that’s the best part about this event.”
SGA also had a good time learning about their holiday Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Julia Tremel, junior exercise science major and commuter senator for SGA said that, as a senate, SGA was most interested in Diwali.
“I thought it was cool that, every year, [those who celebrate Diwali] buy new clothes specifically for the holiday, and it’s kind of like how my Christmas tradition is getting new pajamas every Christmas Eve,” Tremel said. “That kind of goes hand in hand.”
While Holidays Around the World is about educating students about new cultures, it’s also about having fun, so the American Sign Language Club was invited to perform for those attending. LeMont Smith, junior communication major and President of the ASL Club, said he’s always excited to perform at events like this one not only for the exposure but also because it’s fun. A group of ASL Club members signed “That’s Christmas To Me” for the audience.
“[Preparing for this event] was a lot of work but a lot of fun, because only half the people we had were already a part of the club and the other half weren’t part of the club at all,” Smith said. “You could really see how much people enjoyed it once they got the hang of it and once we started doing it, and it was just really fun and a really good time.”
Smith said the song choice is something of a tradition for the club because, ever since he joined his freshman year, the club has always signed “That’s Christmas To Me” and once he was elected as President, he made the decision to continue the tradition.
“It’s really family-oriented, and it’s really fun and it’s a happy song,” Smith said. “You can’t really go wrong with it, I feel. It puts a smile on my face, and I figure it’ll put a smile on others’ faces.”
Booker also mentioned that AVI is always a big part of making this event come to life, especially this year because the OIE asked for food they don’t traditionally ask for.
“AVI was very supportive, very accommodating and just very helpful in bringing this event to life,” Booker said.