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Mission Church

Mission Church

A Multifaith Approach to the Holidays

Learning about the traditions of other faiths enhances our own holiday experiences and helps build a vibrant community.


Chestnuts are roasting on an open fire and Jack Frost is nipping at our nose. Okay, maybe not here on the Mission campus, but Bing Crosby is singing about it on the radio. The signs of Advent—and of Christmas soon to come!—are everywhere, from twinkling lights on houses to manger scenes on church lawns. These are beautiful markers of the Christian holidays. But Advent and Christmas are not the only holidays being celebrated this time of year.

As a Jesuit, Catholic institution, we value finding God in all things, and there is no better season to look broadly for God at work than the winter holiday season. Many religious and spiritual communities have winter celebrations that coincide with Advent and Christmas.

For our Jewish friends, Hanukkah will begin at sundown on December 24th. This holiday celebrates God’s miracle of sustaining a single lamp’s worth of oil for eight nights.

For our Hindu friends, the festival of Diwali was celebrated from October 1st to November 4th this year. Diwali is the festival of lights, recognizing the triumph of good over evil.

For our African American friends, the cultural festival of Kwanzaa will be celebrated for seven nights, beginning on December 26th, and honors seven important pan-African cultural values.

For our Pagan and Spiritual friends, Yule or the Winter Solstice will be celebrated on December 21st and marks the longest night of the year, when the day is darkest. It is also a celebration of the rebirth of the Sun, as the days slowly begin to lengthen.

For our Asian friends, the lunar New Year will be celebrated on January 28th and is a more secular celebration of the beginning of the Moon cycles for the year.

As a people of faith, it can be easy to only focus on our holiday and forget that many people around the world are in a season of celebration. Reaching out and learning about one another’s traditions can enhance our own experiences of the holidays, and well as help us to grow in relationship to our neighbors. Sharing stories, traditions, and the special foods of each holiday are ways that we can grow to see God in many ways and get to know our diverse community more fully.

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Photo by Joanne Lee