Families in Findlay celebrate the holidays in a variety of ways. Meet four different families who share the traditions and celebrations that mean the most to them.
The Koyama Family
Celebrating the New Year as in Japan
In Japan, Omisoka (New Year’s Eve) and Oshogatsu (New Year’s Day) are holidays full of celebration, traditions and time away from work and school. Kazou and Michie Koyama will be incorporating many aspects of the Japanese New Year into their American home this year with their youngest daughter, Yuka, while their three older children remain in Japan.
Prior to December 30th and 31st, preparations for the new year begin in Japan. Family members clean their homes and often buy new clothes to start the year on a fresh, new note. On Omisoka, relatives get together and share a meal called Osechi-ryori in which each food has a different meaning. Noodles symbolize long life while red (carrots) and white (radishes) represent the colors of celebration in Japan. Yuka then explains what happens on Oshogatsu, “The first thing we eat in the morning is Ozoni, a soup that has a sticky rice cake in it, to celebrate. On New Year’s Day, it is a tradition that parents or grandparents give the children money known as Otoshidama. We go to the temple or shrine and pray for the new year – to be happy and safe.”
In Japan, greeting cards known as Nengajo are sent to family and friends for New Year’s in the same way people in the United States send holiday greeting cards. Yuka and Michie point out that the holiday in Japan is similar to Thanksgiving here. They focus on spending time with family, sharing a meal and expressing gratitude to one another.
The Dalvi Family
Christmas in India and the U.S.
Sharon Dalvi grew up in Mumbai, India, where she celebrated the festivals of Holi, Eid and Diwali with her family. But she describes Christmas as always being closer to her heart because it celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Rajiv, Sharon and their children, Neal and Aisha, incorporate traditions from India into their Christmas in Findlay.
The Dalvi family attends midnight mass as a family at St. Michael’s and they invite along their Hindu friends who enjoy hearing the choir sing carols. The children love putting up the Christmas tree and adding handmade ornaments. Decorations bring a bit of the culture Sharon grew up in closer to home: “In India festivals are celebrated with bright lights and colors and Christmas was no exception. We decorate our church and homes with colorful streamers and multicolored lights. I used to assist my dad in putting up a giant paper lantern in the form of a huge star to welcome friends and family.” The Dalvi family puts up a star in their Findlay home where they also enjoy making sweets from India and a Christmas lunch of delicious Indian food including Pork Vindaloo, Roasted Lamb Curry, Spicy Coconut Chicken and Garlic Naan.
Sharon grew up with a focus on charity and giving. “On Christmas morning I used to head out to visit neighbors and family with a plate of homemade sweets (Kuswar) and other goodies. We would wish each other well and elders would bless us. It didn’t matter whether they were Hindus or Muslims or Christians.” Today Sharon and Rajiv pass that value on to the Dalvi children by having them complete chores for money that they donate to charities at Christmas time.
The Alhazmi Family
Islamic Celebrations from Saudi Arabia
Ahmed, Rana, Faisal and Mira Alhazmi are from Saudi Arabia where three Islamic Festivals include Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha. While holidays are always on the same day on the Islamic lunar calendar, they shift on the traditional U.S. calendar and no Muslim holidays will be celebrated in December or January this year.
Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the lunar calendar. During Ramadan, Muslims must fast from dawn to sunset going without food and water partially to feel what it would be like to be poor (pregnant and nursing mothers and travelers are exempt). “As soon as the Sun sets on the last day of Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr starts and the Muslims feast,” explains Rana. Food and drink are passed around in Mosques and people wear new clothes. During this time, Muslims also visit relatives and neighbors, often giving gifts to those in the hospital to spread cheer.
Eid Al-Adha falls on the tenth day of Thul-Hijjah (the last month of the Islamic calendar). The meaning of Eid Al-Adha is “The Feast of Sacrifice.” Rana explains, “The prophet Abraham was called to sacrifice his son to show that he was loyal to God. At the last moment, God said to Abraham that this was simply a test, and he did not have to sacrifice his son. Muslims on this holiday sacrifice a lamb to show their gratitude for God saving Abraham’s son’s life.”
Lastly, Rana mentions the importance of prayer not only during festivals, but in everyday life for Muslims. Rana describes prayer as the spiritual diet and one of the central elements of Islamic practice and worship.
The Koomen Family
Celebrating a Ukranian Christmas
Jason and Amy Koomen have a full house of eight children, including their two young daughters with special needs, who were adopted from the Ukraine in September. For Jason, Amy, Caitlin, Carson, Miles, Audrey, Carly, Pierce, Noor, and Raia, this year’s Christmas will be celebrated with Ukranian traditions to honor the culture of their newest daughters.
The family will decorate the house with Pysanky eggs, which are similar to Easter eggs decorated with Ukranian and Russian designs. They will also create, decorate and give the eggs to family members and friends as gifts. On Christmas Eve, Svyatyi Mykolai (Saint Nicholas) comes and delivers presents to the children. He leaves one present under the pillow of each sleeping child as well as some fruit.
The Christmas feast, or Svieta Vecherya, is full of symbolism and meaning. As Amy describes, “The feast is a twelve course meatless Ukrainian meal that includes vegetables, wheat dishes and fruit. We will have sheaves of wheat on the tables to symbolize the manager and also bring good luck for the new year. The twelve courses represent the twelve apostles. The feast begins when they see the first star in the sky that night and is to be eaten under candle light.” This Christmas is sure to be a special one for the Koomen family.