PDS Celebrates the Holiday Season


John Akbari

PDS celebrates the holiday season with representations from numerous cultures. (Photo/John Akbari ’21)

Adya Jha, Online Staff Writer

In previous years, the weeks leading up to winter break at PDS have been full of joy and excitement for the holidays. While this year is no exception when it comes to anticipation, it will look quite unlike any holiday season before. With a pandemic ravaging the globe and many unable to see family and friends like usual, celebrations will be restructured in order to fit new constraints. Despite these limitations, the Upper School has launched several student life initiatives, like a holiday themed spirit week and the usual vibrant Christmas tree in the lobby, aimed at providing joy and some semblance of normality in an abnormal time. 

However, as one walks past the main entrance, they may notice other religious symbols, such as a Hanukkah menorah and Kwanzaa candles. While PDS has always celebrated holidays from other cultures, over the course of several years, Christmas has become an increasingly secular holiday, with many who don’t engage in the Christian faith still engaging in Christmas celebrations. Thus, it becomes quite easy to forget the various other cultures who have holidays at concurrent times. I reached out to a few PDS students who engage in various celebrations or recognize Christmas in a purely secular manner. 

Freshman Jamie Creasi shared, “A couple weeks ago I was looking at pictures with my mom from when I was little, and something that always stayed the same was that every year in around mid-December, we would go to downtown Princeton, specifically the Christmas tree and the hotel. It would be much different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but under normal circumstances, there would be so many people taking pictures by that HUGE tree, other kids running around, Christmas lights in favor of the holiday season, and even some Christmas carols… there’s just an atmosphere of merriness and happiness [about the season].” Many other PDS students who celebrated Christmas secularly shared Jamie’s feelings about Christmas, expressing that they enjoyed the season for the joy and happiness that came along with it, as well as the added plus of a break from school activities. 

Freshman Shivani Manikandan noted, “I mean as [someone who celebrated the holidays non-religiously], I’m Hindu and and we put up a tree and do presents. We’ve only done this for around 4 years but what we do is we get a tree and we put lights around it and we put ornaments on. A little before the holidays, my sister and I would make a ‘wishlist’ and tell our parents what we would want or something along the lines and then on Christmas Day we would each get a gift. It varies how we do it over the years though, but it’s essentially the same.” Freshman Sam Elkin, who is Jewish, said “I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I do celebrate Hanukkah with my family.” 

Members of the diverse PDS community are engaging in various kinds of celebratory activities, both religious and purely for the holiday. As students leave school for winter break, a few weeks of quality time with their families, and (hopefully) a reprieve from academics, they might be able to think about how their time differs from their peers and widen their understanding of the holiday season.