Season of celebration: Burlingame’s holiday traditions

Season of celebration: Burlingames holiday traditions
Because Miller’s husband is Jewish, her children celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.
Annie Miller

Most people who celebrate Christmas wake up on Dec. 25 to open presents by the tree. This isn’t the case for history teacher Annie Miller, who celebrates the holiday on Christmas Eve — a Catholic and Sicilian tradition passed on from her Sicily-born parents.

On Christmas Eve, Miller’s favorite tradition was to prepare seven different types of fish, a tradition known as The Feast of the Seven Fishes. 

“My parents were not good cooks and not into food, and this is the one night of the year where it was delicious, thoughtful food that was prepared with love and care,” Miller said.

Miller’s love of this tradition has compelled her to pass it down to her children.

“As my parents have gotten older, my brother and I have taken over the cooking. And so that’s been really special and so each year as my kids get older, we involve them a little bit more and more, so when they were tiny, it’d be like ‘help set the table,’” Miller said. “Now they’re starting to get to a point where they can do more. And so I hope that’s a tradition that they might continue.”

Christmas isn’t the only holiday Miller partakes in now — because her husband is Jewish, their family also celebrates Hanukkah. For Miller, celebrating two holidays makes for a wonderful December.

“December rolls around and I am so pumped and so excited,” Miller said.

Because Miller’s husband is Jewish, her children celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. (Abby Knight)
Junior Inci Yagmurlu celebrates two Muslim holidays, Eid and Ramadan.
Inci Yagmurlu

Junior Inci Yagmurlu’s holiday season looks a bit different from those who celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. Yagmurlu celebrates two Muslim holidays, Eid and Ramadan. The timing of the holidays shifts each year in accordance with the Islamic lunar calendar; this year, both events will take place in the spring

According to Yagmurlu, the purpose of Eid is to show obedience to God, which originates from a story in the Quran. On the other hand, people celebrate Ramadan to fast and show forgiveness for God and empathy for those who are impoverished.

Yagmurlu was born in Turkey, and the majority of her family still resides there. She visits her home country every summer and finds Eid and Ramadan the most special when they occur during her summer in Turkey.

“[You celebrate with] family usually, but you can also be with your friends. For example in Ramadan, you can invite your friends too. It’s not like Thanksgiving where you’re like ‘I’m going back to my family’s house’, you can [celebrate] with your friends too,” Yagmurlu said.

Finally, Yagmurlu believes that because Christmas is such a common holiday across the world, it has diminished the attention paid to holidays such as Eid and Ramadan.

“Christmas is always the same date every year, so people really got used to it. And in this country, there’s not that many Muslim people,” Yagmurlu said.

Junior Inci Yagmurlu celebrates two Muslim holidays, Eid and Ramadan. (Abby Knight)
From Serbia, Masa Milojevic brought Orthodox Christian traditions with her to Burlingame.
Masa Milojevic

When sophomore Masa Milojevic transferred to Burlingame from Belgrade, Serbia two years ago, she brought with her the Orthodox Christian traditions and culture she grew up with. One tradition is the Orthodox celebration of Christmas on Jan. 7, in commemoration of Jesus Christ’s birth. 

Each year during winter break, Milojevic and her family take a flight to Belgrade to celebrate the holiday season with their friends and extended family.

Following Orthodox Christian traditions, the head of Milojevic’s family journeys to the woods on Christmas Eve and chops down a section of an oak tree — most commonly referred to as “badnjak” — and burns it in the oven once back in the house. When Christmas day comes around, Milojevic’s family prays and gathers for a Christmas breakfast to enjoy česnica, the round loaf of bread that is an essential component of meals in Serbian Christmas. Once the česnica is broken, one can find a wooden stick promising good health for the upcoming year or a coin promising an abundance of money.

“My favorite memory from Christmas was probably that one time where I won a coin from the česnica,” Milojevic said. “My grandma is the one that makes the dessert and she usually gives it to my brother or my dad because he’s the head of the family so I was so happy when I succeeded in getting it.”

From Serbia, Masa Milojevic brought Orthodox Christian traditions with her to Burlingame. (Joelle Huysmans)
Chakravartti has been celebrating Christmas with her family since birth.
Aahana Chakravartti

Senior Aahana Chakravartti has celebrated both Christmas and Hindu holidays for her entire life. Her family honors Hindu holidays like Kali Puja, Holi and Diwali throughout the year and partakes in secular Christmas celebrations during the winter.

During December, Chakravartti spends time with her extended family and often goes skiing in Colorado or visits her family in India.

“Over [In India], there’s this one street that is decked out in lights and a bunch of stuff for Christmas, and normally during all the festivals and stuff in India it gets super loud, so whenever there’s a festival or something we always go out to eat and we just spend time with each other,” Chakravartti said.

Besides cooking, decoration is a huge part of Chakravartti’s Hindu traditions.

“In the front of our house, we do Rangoli which is the stuff you do with colored sand,” Chakravartti said. “We put out lights and stuff.” 

With the commercialization of Christmas and Hanukkah, Chakravartti feels that many Hindu holidays have been overshadowed.

“I feel like if we were to be more inclusive of other religions and stuff, we should kind of tone down Christmas a tiny bit,” Chakravartti said. “But I know in the U.S. at least, most people celebrate Christmas, and that’s a fun thing to do. But if we just wanted to be more inclusive, maybe add some other things.”

Chakravartti has been celebrating Christmas with her family since birth. (Abby Knight)
Sophomore Samson Einhorn has been celebrating Hanukkah since he was a young boy.
Samson Einhorn

When Dec. 7 comes around, sophomore Samson Einhorn gets ready for Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival commemorating the miracle of light. According to ancient stories, the Maccabees, a group of Jewish rebel warriors, successfully revolted against the Seleucid Empire. While trying to reconstruct the destroyed Second Temple of Jerusalem, the Maccabees were left with just enough oil for a candle to last one day. Miraculously, the candle burned for eight days, which enabled the group to rededicate the temple, ridding it of Greek idols. 

Each day of the celebration, Einhorn gathers with his family to recite blessings and light one candle of the menorah — a seven-branched lamp. Einhorn’s Hanukkah traditions also include playing the dreidel and eating latkes (a fried potato pancake) with applesauce.

“Generally our grandparents and cousins visit us so it definitely brings the family closer together,” Einhorn said. “We get to do all of these fun traditions together like lighting the menorah and having dinner so it kind of relights our own candle in a way.”

Einhorn’s favorite memory of celebrating Hanukkah is traveling to Israel with his family for the holiday.

“That was probably the [most fun] Hanukkah I have ever had,” Einhorn said. “Israel is sort of considered the holy land for Jews and celebrating it there made it even more special. The entire city was decorated and there were fireworks, it was awesome.”

Sophomore Samson Einhorn has been celebrating Hanukkah since he was a young boy. (Photo Courtesy of Samson Einhorn)
On New Years, Dozorov enjoys a cabbage soup known as shchi, a family tradition for generations.
Sasha Dozorov

For sophomore Sasha Dozorov — of Russian origin — preparations for New Year celebrations begin months in advance. He and his family typically prepare food beforehand, which in turn will be stored until Dec. 31, when they will feast on a variety of traditional dishes. One of Dozorov’s personal favorites is the Olivier salad, a potato salad with finely diced vegetables, eggs, potatoes, pickles, cheese and tossed in mayonnaise. Another trademark that Dozorov enjoys on New Year is the cabbage soup known as shchi, which he says is particularly meaningful to him because it has been a family tradition for generations.

“For us, [New Year’s] is a very food-oriented holiday,” Dozorov said. “Food kind of has the power to bring people together because everyone is making it together and eating it together so that’s why we take it so seriously during the holiday.”

As the clock ticks toward midnight, Dozorov and his family typically watch the traditional Soviet TV show “Little Blue Light,” which includes singing, dancing, political announcements and summaries of the year. At midnight, Dozorov makes a wish and sets resolutions for the upcoming year while watching colorful fireworks go off in the sky.

“My favorite part [of New Year] is after midnight, when we go outside and look at the fireworks,” Dozorov said. “It’s so beautiful and I think really the best way to start a new year.”

On New Year’s, Dozorov enjoys a cabbage soup known as shchi, a family tradition for generations. (Photo Courtesy of Sasha Dozorov)
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Abby Knight, Copy Editor
Abby Knight is a junior and a second-year journalism student. She is excited to take on the role of one of the copy editors for the paper this year. Outside of school, she loves reading classics, creative writing, playing guitar, tutoring kids and spending time with her dog.
Joelle Huysmans, Diversity Coordinator
Joelle Huysmans is a sophomore at Burlingame High School and Diversity Coordinator for The Burlingame B as a second-year journalism student. Outside of school, she enjoys playing tennis, running in track and field, spending time with friends, playing board games with her family, and traveling across the world to discover foreign cultures. Her profound passion for reading and writing has led her to this class and she is excited to see where it will take her next.
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