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Season of celebration: Southeast Missouri high school students share holiday memories
'Tis the season for warm holiday memories of family, friends, faith and giving. But not everybody celebrates the holiday season in the same way -- or at all. Southeast Missouri, while predominantly Christian, is home to other cultures. Today, area students share their spiritual memories of Christmas, Hanukkah and traditions of Islam in this special toast to the seasons.
Alicia Ticer, a senior at Notre Dame Regional High School, loves decorating the Christmas tree with her family, hanging the ornaments and sharing stories from Christmases past.
Arguably her favorite part of the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, she said, is the Christmas Eve Mass at her church.
"We have a guiding star that goes through the audience. It's mesmerizing to watch it as it finds its way above the manger," said Ticer, 17. "You watch it with anticipation building inside of you. It's magical how it comes up through the service."
Festival of memories
Who knew a smoking Hanukkah bush could turn into such a special memory? It's one of those holiday moments Dale Hoover holds dear, because it remains a funny image of her father, who died in 2007.
"When my dad was still alive, he was setting up the Hanukkah bush and he was smoking at the time and it caught fire," said Hoover, a sophomore at Cape Girardeau Central High School. "It was just really funny. We put the fire out really fast."
The Jewish traditions live on in Hoover's house, with prayers, the holy meals and presents in the homage to Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights. But in a city with a small Jewish community, Hoover said there seems to be only so many Hanukkah-themed items to go around.
"We were in Schnucks and there's a tiny section for Hannukah stuff. They said an electric menorah was sold out. And we're thinking, 'What? There are only three and a half Jews in Cape Girardeau. How are the electric menorahs sold out?'" Hoover said, chuckling.
For Kris Cook, Christmas isn't a one-day event. The Saxony Lutheran senior said his family celebrates the Christian season of Advent, the beginning of the church year.
"We light the Advent candles every night, and we read a Bible verse each night," Cook said.
He said he likes the simple but beautiful candlelight service at his Baptist church on Christmas Eve.
"We sing 'Silent Night,' which shows us how quiet that night was when Jesus was born and that it didn't seem that important, but it turned out it was the most important night in the world," Cook said.
She was a little girl at the time, but the memory is clear.
Sana Ahmed was in Pakistan on the night of Eid, the Islam celebration of the end of the 30 days of dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. The first Eid, based on the lunar calendar, occurs annually at different points in the year, at times falling during the Christmas and Hanukkah season.
"I was at my grandma's house, and we always decorated," said Ahmed, a 17-year-old senior at Cape Girardeau Central High School. "They always put candles on the gates, and they put lights up, like Christmas lights, all over the house and inside. The stores are decorated and the streets are alive. We have a big party and everybody is celebrating."
Brittany Adams doesn't celebrate Christmas. Or Thanksgiving. Or any other holiday, for that matter. The 15-year-old sophomore at Cape Girardeau Central High School said her mother, once a Baptist who remains a committed believer in God and the Scriptures, sees holidays, including Christmas, as "man-made."
But there was one year, Adams recalled, that her mother allowed her to celebrate all of the major holidays at home. And Christmas, at least how many Christians celebrate it, came to Brittany Adams.
"We did the whole thing," she said. "We got a Christmas tree, and Santa Claus came to my house and everything."
She said she agrees with her mom's point, that such celebrations are unnecessary. She has celebrated the holidays at her dad's home, but for Adams it's not the same.
"I think I would rather stay home and be with my mom than to go with my dad because it really doesn't feel like family when I do it," Adams said. "I would rather be at home with my mom than to get presents from people I really don't know."