|This year has been filled with ups and downs. An assortment of mixed emotions pivoting on the enthusiastic election of this nation's historic new leader, Barack Obama, yet trapped in the despair of the current economic downturn. Needless to say, with the collapse of the housing markets, the fiscal irresponsibility of Wall Street, and the contemplated abandonment of the country’s automotive and banking industries, the United States of America has seen better days. However, with the heart of the holiday season approaching, we should allow ourselves to divert our attention from the troubles of society and embrace the importance and value of family, friends, food, and for the faithful,divinity. Now more than ever, we should give thanks for what we have, and at the same time remain optimistic that soon enough the tide of history will turn and the U.S. will once again regain its economic strength and stability. Let us all share in this annual time of charity and camaraderie, as Christmas is upon us!|
Christmas is a major holiday in the United States, perhaps the biggest of the entire year. Christmas Day takes place on December 25th, with Christmas Eve celebrated the night before. Although Christmas is traditionally a Christian holiday marking the birth of Jesus Christ, it has earned a great deal of secular value in the United States, with many non-Christians participating in the traditions and customs.
Regardless, for Christians and non-Christians alike, gift giving is one of the main Christmas activities for all who celebrate it. Traditionally, on Christmas morning families exchange gifts that many children believe were delivered by Santa Claus the night before. Prior to Santa’s imparting of Christmas presents, many of these children leave milk and cookies out for him to eat the night he visits their house. According to folklore and Christmas tradition, Santa Claus is said to maintain a “Naughty and Nice” list of children who will and will not receive gifts that year. Then, the night of Christmas Eve, he visits the homes of deserving children on his magical sleigh pulled by reindeer. Santa then drops through the chimney and places the gifts under the family's Christmas tree.
The Christmas tree, traditionally an evergreen or spruce, is kept in a family's home throughout the month of December and into January. The body of the tree is decorated with lights and ornaments and usually topped off with a star or angel adornment placed at the top. Many families, especially children, look forward to this time of "trimming" in the weeks that precede Christmas. Undoubtedly, the most famous Christmas tree in the United States is the giant Norwegian spruce that is lit in New Yorks Rockefeller Center each year, which marks the beginning of the Holiday season in November; annually over 5 miles (roughly 8 km) of lights are used to decorate this massive Christmas symbol.
Additionally, many people also decorate their homes and businesses with colorful lights and other decorations. The traditional Christmas colors are red and green, but white and multicolored lights are also used. During this season, it’s also common to see wreaths of holly and mistletoe used as decorations. The tradition is that if you find yourself standing under the mistletoe with someone, you’re obliged to kiss each other; however, this has come to be more of a joke and source of cinematic romance than strict tradition.
After opening presents on Christmas morning, many families eat dinner together in the late afternoon. Turkey, ham, and roast beef are the typical entrees, along with usual Thanksgiving foods such as stuffing and mashed potatoes. However, this naturally varies according to individual tastes, ethnicities, and customs. Finally, many families also attend religious services on Christmas Day and/or Christmas Eve, and some even go caroling (singing Christmas songs) in their neighborhoods.
Ultimately, even if non-Christians do not follow all of these traditions, Christmas is still a national holiday that everyone takes off from work, and the giving of gifts is also relatively universal throughout Christmas Day proceedings. As mentioned, December 25th is a federal holiday in the United States, so almost all businesses close for the day. However, many Chinese restaurants remain open on Christmas Day, and it has become a tradition for many non-Christians to take advantage of this opportunity and enjoy good food on Christmas. Furthermore, American movie theaters are also usually open for Christian and non-Christian crowds, and each year, many families choose to entertain themselves at the theater during this time.
Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are two other major holidays that are celebrated around the time of Christmas in the United States. Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that usually falls sometime during December and lasts for eight days. Hanukkah traditions include exchanging gifts, lighting candles, playing the game of dreidel, and eating doughnuts and latkes, fried potato pancakes.
Kwanzaa is observed between December 26th and January 1st each year. It was originally created as an alternative to Christmas that would pay homage to classical African cultures. Among other traditions, families who celebrate Kwanzaa traditionally light candles held in a kinara, whose shape represents African-American roots, and indulge in a communal holiday feast.
In addition to Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, there are still more holidays celebrated by other groups during this period, including Diwali, the Hindu “Festival of Light” (October 28th of this year), and Las Posadas, which is celebrated by many Latin American Christians from December 16th to December 24th.
The Holiday Spirit Traditions in the United States may vary a great deal from group to group. However, despite all ethnic, racial, and religious differences, a holiday spirit still pervades throughout the month of December.
Year after year, the holiday season truly embodies an emphasis on thinking of others and helping those who are in need. Throughout our country, there are thousands of people less fortunate than us, perhaps without family, food, or even shelter. Thus, it is during this season that many people make an extra effort to volunteer or donate to charity, for instance, many non-profit organizations hold successful toy drives for underprivileged children.
Although Christmas and other religious holidays are specific to certain groups, many principles that are associated with this holiday season — i.e. hope, peace, equality — are without a doubt collective themes. Thus, ultimately the holiday season has a separate and individualized meaning for everyone throughout the United States, regardless of one’s background and/or beliefs.
Whatever your individual preferences, we at Zhang & Associates would like to wish you the best of holidays and a happy New Year. We recognize that times may be tough at the moment, but encourage everyone to remain optimistic, determined, and focused as we head into 2009. It is after all, a brand new year with brand new expectations and a clean slate for us all.
Zhang & Associates would like to extend a warm season’s greetings to all the USCIS Officers who have devoted their time to evaluating our cases, and at times, have been overwhelmed by the ever increasing caseload. We are very thankful to them for all their hard work, and we hope they have a relaxing holiday season and joyful new year.
We would also like to send our best wishes to the pro-immigration advocates and legislators who have worked in the interests of our clients this year. We wish them a holiday season full of good food and company, and hope that they return to their efforts refreshed and revitalized following the New Year.
Finally, and most importantly, we would like to thank all of our clients for entrusting us with their cases, and we sincerely look forward to continuing to work with you in the coming year. We hope your holiday season is filled with joy and laughter, and we send you our best wishes and great success in the New Year. Prosperity is just around the corner!
Happy Holidays from Zhang & Associates!