With a name merging three different holidays — Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa — Chrismahanukwanzika, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, provides a space for USC students to celebrate the holidays while learning about various cultural identities on campus.
The event's goal is to be inclusive and fun for various cultures, while educating peers on each others' traditions at a primarily white institution.
The event consisted of various tables and celebrations for different holidays, including food activities and symbolic representations, such as violet-colored décor for the Chinese New Year.
Kimberly Seibles, the associate director of diversity and social justice education in OMSA's office, coordinated the event. She said she believes it is important to take notice of all holidays, and not just the "cookie cutter" winter holidays that are widely celebrated.
“I think a lot of times when people talk about the holidays, they refer to maybe more Christian holidays,” Seibles said. “They don’t necessarily pay attention to the ones that people from different cultures or backgrounds might celebrate.”
Seibles said OMSA's goal with this event is to create a space for the individuals who don’t celebrate Christian holidays. The event also provides information for those who want to learn about different cultural celebrations, she said.
One student, Nainaa Oberoi, celebrates Diwali and said she believes the importance of celebrating it, and other holidays, allows for better understanding of what they are truly about.
“I think people have only heard of Diwali’s theme of the festival of lights, but to actually see it happen… bringing positivity and bringing your family and friends together, and what better way to do that than bringing students on campus together,” Oberoi, a fourth-year mathematics student, said.
Oberoi also said it’s good to be as representative as one can be during the holidays, and that it can help students bring new holidays to the table during the celebration and further educate others on other cultures.
Students from many different cultural backgrounds came to the event to have fun and learn about other cultures. Students in attendance also said they felt the event helps to better build a sense of community and inclusivity.
Julia Walker, a third-year music education student, said the event helped her with learning about winter holidays that she was previously unaware of, such as Winter Solstice, the Prophet’s Birthday and Diwali. She added that a unique part of it was that, not only does the event share these cultural identities, but it does so in an intimate and in-depth way in which just learning about it doesn't.
“This event really allows people to get up close and personal and participate in specific activities that happen during those holidays,” Walker said.
Education is a major part of the event through open discussion and experience. Students and faculty alike had the opportunity to socialize outside of cultural norms and explore traditions otherwise not typically seen, as well as the opportunity to befriend others with different cultural backgrounds which they probably wouldn't have otherwise.
Payton Hollis, a second-year psychology student, said the event gave her the opportunity to be more educated on different ideas and the diversity of the school in general.
“I think (Chrismahanukwanzika) really opens up people’s minds. I think a lot of us are close-minded when we don’t understand things like different religions and why people celebrate different things,” Hollis said. “So not only are we able to just hear the name of the event, but we’re able to actually learn about it and kind of feel involved.”