Annual Christmas traditions extend beyond religion

Students share their reasons for decorating a tree and writing a wish list


Nina Zietlow

Sophomore Navodhya Samarakoon draws her version of Christmas. Samarakoon practices Buddhism but celebrates Christmas with her family. “Everyone else does it, it’s a way for us to assimilate into American culture,“ Samarakoon said.

For many students at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, December is an exciting time as lights are strung, cookies decorated, and the anticipation for Christmas grows.

For some SPA students who don’t belong to the Christian religion, the Christmas holiday isn’t celebrated for its religious significance, but instead for the sense of family, tradition, and fun that comes along with this popular holiday.

Sophomore Lexi Hilton is Jewish, but celebrates Christmas with her dad’s side of the family.
“We try to spend it with family if we can, but it can be hard cause they all live outside of Minnesota,” Hilton said.

Hilton celebrates the holiday the same way that most American families do, with presents and a decorated tree, but still finds ways to tie Christmas traditions back to her Jewish faith.

“The part of Christmas of spending time with family and friends is an important value that I find in Judaism as well,” Hilton said.

Junior Eva Zaydman, who is also Jewish, will be celebrating Christmas for the first time this year.

“My family and I plan on getting a Christmas tree this year,” Zaydman said, “but we’ll also make Christmas-related foods such as gingerbread.”

Unlike Hilton’s family, the Christmas celebration does not have the same family significance. “It’s something we do for fun,” Zaydman said.

“Everyone else does it, it’s a way for us to assimilate into American culture,” sophomore Navodhya Samarakoon said. “Now every time my friends talk about Christmas, I know what it is; I can relate to it more.”

Samarakoon practices Buddhism but celebrates Christmas with her family. “We put Christmas lights up and sometimes we get presents,” Samarakoon said.

Samarakoon’s family moved from Sri Lanka to the United States 12 years ago and finds that celebrating Christmas has helped them feel more connected to American life.

Whether the Christmas celebration is a way for families to become more deeply connected with religious tradition, or help them assimilate into a new culture or custom, the festivities and holiday spirit of Christmas help people feel united and established in their lives.