Drop that dollar-store package of Hanes socks you were planning on dividing among your friends as holiday gifts. Get creative this season. Why not get your friend something that shows you spent time and thought by understanding his culture or religion? Of course, any gift that represents something significant to your friendship or is something you know your friend has been eyeing is always a good choice. However, if you’re stuck on what to get your friend, or just want to get something that would show him you care, what better way than get a gift that identifies with your friend’s beliefs.
Obviously not everyone celebrates Christmas. By taking the time to understand what your friend celebrates and when he celebrates it, you can give them something that may mean more. It can get a little hairy, but hopefully with a little help you can make this year’s gift more memorable than a cotton undergarment.
Hanukkah is celebrated anywhere between late November and late December because of the Jewish lunar calendar. This year, however, it is held on Dec. 8 through Dec. 15. Rebecca Alpert, Chair Associate Professor of Religion and Women’s Studies said that Hanukkah is not a major Jewish holiday and was not originally associated with gift-giving. However, with the exchange of gifts being such an integral part of the holiday season, it has become much more common to give gifts during Hanukkah.
If you want to get your friend something traditional, “go to a Jewish shop,” Alpert said. “They have things like dreidels and gold chocolate candies [reminiscent of old gold coins from Europe] and books,” Alpert said. American Pie on South Street has a Jewish section with possible gifts (215) 922-2226. Melissa Burstein, architecture sophomore, said her parents just give her things she wants or needs, not really Hanukkah-related gifts. Base the gift on what you think your friend would like.
Kwanzaa is a cultural celebration for African Americans lasting from Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Each day celebrates one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa. On the last day of the holiday, Zawadi or gifts may be given.
“The gifts are best if they are handmade,” said Molefi Kete Asante of the African American Studies department on campus. “The idea is to give something that shows sacrifice.” Abu Abarry, of the same department, added, “Gift-giving is not stressed and may include items we usually associate with other special periods like Christmas.”
Russian and Greek Orthodox Christmas
“The Russian and Greek Orthodox Church are religiously homogenous yet ethnically different,” said Vasiliki Limberis of Temple’s Religion Department. “With the switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, Christmas is now celebrated on the 25th…but gift-giving is done on the 6th, which is the Epiphany, which celebrates the baptism of Jesus and the arrival of the three wise men.” Limberis advised that there are no specific traditional gifts, though it is polite to bring some sweets or other food if you attend one of the many parties held Dec. 25 through Jan. 7.
Three Kings Day
The holiday is celebrated in Puerto Rico, Mexico, and many Hispanic cultures on Jan. 6 to commemorate the coming of the Three Wise Men to present gifts to Jesus. According to Hallmark’s press room Web site, “Traditionally in Mexico, Three Kings Day was the gift-giving time, rather than Christmas day,” though it is not uncommon for both to be celebrated. Children leave shoes out on the night of Jan. 5, filling them with hay for the camels which is replaced with gifts by The Wise Men before morning. Depending on personal stealth capabilities, sneaking into a friend’s house in the middle of the night to leave gifts is probably not a good idea. It is better give it at the holiday party instead.
This Hindu holy tradition celebrates the triumph of darkness over light. It is also the Hindu New Year and one of the most important Hindu holidays. Because Hindus use the lunar calendar, the holiday moves, but this year the five day celebration started on Nov. 12. “The festival of lights is celebrated by giving sweets, fruits and small gifts to one another,” said William Allen of the Religion Department. Hallmark adds, “A typical Indian celebration includes fresh flowers, exchanges of cards and gifts, new clothes, meeting new and old friends, and offerings of traditional sweets.”
Eid al-Fitr & Eid al-Adha
This year Eid al-Fitr was Nov. 14 and 15. “Eid al-Adha will be around Jan. 21,” said Shahid Mohiuodin of Temple’s Muslim Student Association, who added, “gifts [for either holiday] could range from a pair of gloves…to an Xbox.” If you are looking for something more cultural, Mohiuodin recommended “gifts like framed pictures of Makkah or Medina, or a verse of the Quran with gold lettering on a beautiful wall mount to decorate the house.”
Now get shopping.
Josh Chamberlain can be reached at Joshch@temple.edu.