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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

UC Davis organizations celebrate holidays

This time of year is called the holiday season for a reason. For certain groups, the theme this year has been breaking regional and cultural divides to celebrate together and learn new things.

One of the biggest examples of this was the partnering of the Indian Student Association (ISA) and Aggies for Israel (AFI) on Nov. 15 to celebrate Diwali and Hanukkah on the same night.

“Both holidays are most commonly translated as ‘festival of lights’ so we thought it would be fun and creative to do a collaborative event,” said Monica Patel, a fourth-year political science major and co-president of ISA.

Patel and the rest of the group were excited to bring the celebration of Diwali to a larger scale.

“ISA has never celebrated Diwali on the UC Davis campus in such a grand fashion. In the past, we have only reserved smaller classrooms and had about 30 to 40 attendees. This year we tried going all out,” Patel said.

In the spirit of going big, ISA members approached David Marias, a fourth-year entomology major and president of AFI. Marias said he didn’t hesitate to join in the excitement of putting on a large scale event for the holidays.

“The ISA and AFI got together to to do this event, and we invited a bunch of other organizations to work with us,” Marias said.

The South Asian sorority Delta Phi Omega, the Burmese Student Association, Project Rishi, the Hindi-Urdu Program and the Indian Graduate Student Association all tabled at the event, many providing activities such as arts and crafts representing their culture.

Matching the openness of the groups themselves, it was decided that no one would be left out of the festivities.

“It was open to the public, so anyone could show up to it,” Marias said.

The advantage of joining together to put on a free event embracing multiple cultures was understood from the onset of planning.

“It’s educational, it’s fun, and we get both of our groups’ names out there,” Marias said.

The event started off on an educational note, with ISA and AFI giving presentations explaining Diwali and Hanukkah respectively. Afterward, the two groups performed an activity representing their holiday traditions.

“We had cultural presentations: we lit the menorah, they did the ritual for Diwali.

After that we had a bunch of performances by student groups,” Marias said.

The event featured performances by a Bollywood dance team; UC Davis Lashkara, a Bharatanatyam dance team; UC Davis Sunatya, an a capella group; UC Davis Jhankaar, the hip hop dance group Mobility and K-pop dance group SoNE1.

With live entertainment and lots of food to draw people to the event, expectations were met and then some.

“I was anticipating about 250 to 300 people, and we shot well above 400,” Marias said.

Patel estimates that over 500 people actually attended the event. Both of them deemed the celebration a huge success.

“We’re looking to find similar grounds for other cultural events like this because it was such a success,” Marias said.

Patel expressed the ISA’s hope that this will become a new tradition for the groups.

At least one other group has independently embraced the spirit of cultural diversity this season and is celebrating the holidays in style, so to speak.

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) is mixing up the holiday formula by emphasizing the cultural differences in their members.

“In years past we’ve had a gift exchange. This year we’re doing something different, it’s not gonna be gift focused,” said Andrew Kim, a fourth-year economics and communications double major and a member of a ministry group within IVCF Davis.

Kim explained that the group’s approach to the season this year is to de-emphasize material belongings, while at the same time focusing on cultural exchange.

“We’re hoping to bring something back from our Thanksgiving, and then meet up and have a potluck, and try to bring food that’s representative of your culture, or your family or yourself,” Kim said. “We do that in hopes that we’ll get to experience different cultures and the different ways that people celebrate the holidays.”

Although on a smaller scale, the sentiment of Kim’s celebration is similar to that of the ISA-AFI event. Education and celebrating cultural differences are a goal of both, but IVCF’s learning experience is focused on self-realization.

“We’re doing this project called the 21-day project where you pick 21 articles of clothing to wear for 21 days, and that’s all,” Kim said. “We’re studying simplicity, and what Jesus has to say about simplicity, and not being tied to our material things.”

One of the goals of the project is to put into perspective the amount of materials people rely on. When the project is over, Kim hopes to have a clothing drive and donate the clothes members don’t need to organizations that will provide them to those that do.

“We’re trying to live out this idea that if you have two coats, give one to your neighbor,” Kim said.



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