Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur
by Elad Levy, Opinions writer
Religion has been deeply ingrained in my ancestry for centuries. It is something that my grandfather takes deep pride in. It is something that bores me to death. My family is Jewish, but mostly just due to tradition. We still celebrate the main Jewish holidays like Rosh ha Shana and Yom Kippur.
A typical religious holiday for me kicks off the night before the actual holiday with a family gathering involving a spread of traditional Jewish food. Later that night, I go to a synagogue for prayer, which for me means staring at the ceiling and zoning out for the next two hours.
Typically, my family will go to synagogue the following morning to pray, but after enough complaining, my family decides that I’m not worth the fight, and I often find a way to weasel myself out of that one.
In fact, for me, the next day is typically spent like a normal day off, unless I have something religious I must do, like fasting. On days when I have to fast, I envy how my friends look forward to celebrating their day off, while I have to celebrate differently.
Despite the relentless boredom, I feel that days off from school to celebrate religious holidays are absolutely necessary for me, especially on fast days because I have no energy, I’m cranky, and it’s impossible to focus at school. And besides, who wouldn’t want an extra day to rest?
by Ahona Dam, Opinions editor
Durga Puja, a Hindu festival celebrated according to the lunar calendar, falls around the end of September or the beginning of October. The celebration of the victory of good over evil, it marks the yearly arrival of the goddess Durga, who defeated the evil Mahishasura.
The 10-day festival begins with my family and I listening to the “Mahalaya,” a rhythmic retelling of the story of Durga and her magnificent power and strength. For me, Durga Puja lies in this rhythm and movement; the flickering flames of the “diyas” blend with the songs and hymns to create a vibrant celebration of a divine energy.
Kolkata’s Durga Puja in India is marked by the fragrant “shiuli” flowers, the busy rush of buying new clothes and the elaborate pandals, temporary structures built months in advance, which house the goddess Durga.
There’s an internal clock ticking inside everyone as they hurry to check everything off the list — clean the house to welcome Goddess Durga, buy gifts for all relatives, tailor clothes in advance, plan out each day’s outfit. I’ve never visited Kolkata during this magical festival but have heard many stories from my parents and relatives who have visited pandals since they were young.
In America, my Durga Puja commences each year on a chilly Saturday morning at Littleton High School. In a medium-sized gym, little kids chase each other around in circles, aunties praise each other’s saris, and I nervously prepare my poetry recitation before I get on stage.
Bengali Americans, ABCDs (American-Born Confused Desis), NRIs (Non-Residential Indians) — whatever the term may be, we all love to celebrate culture with carefully curated programs of song, dance and plays. Every year, I choose a poetry piece and spend time mastering the curves and flares of the Bengali vowels and consonants before finally performing it behind the bright stage lights.
Goddess Durga is powerful and exuberates a strength that is so unbounded. She is a mother, a sister, a protector to all individuals. Ever since I was young, I’ve always heard that she is within everyone. As a young girl, this message empowered my thinking of self-love and confidence. Not only is Durga a savior, but she symbolizes a greater feminine divinity that is within all individuals.
Cape Verdean Independence Day
by Grace Sousa, Opinions writer
Every year on the Fourth of July, my social media fills with pictures of my friends at cookouts and pool parties. On the way to my Nana’s house, I tap through endless Instagram stories of fireworks. When we arrive in Taunton, my family and I prepare for our celebrations for the next day — fifth of July: Cape Verdean Independence Day.
My entire dad’s side of the family gets there as early as 8 a.m., and the house quickly floods with bags of food and decorations. My aunts and uncles spend the day in the kitchen, cooking our traditional Independence Day meals of cachupa (bean, vegetable, and meat stew), pastels (tuna in a deep fried shell), canja (thick rice and chicken soup) and tons of sweets.
Meanwhile, my siblings, cousins and I turn the house and the patio into a vibrant scene of yellow, blue and red: decorations to emulate the colors of the Cape Verdean flag. When we return to my Nana’s house the next day, the house looks even brighter than before. Lively music flows through every room, the prepared food fills the house with a delicious aroma and the joyful energy is contagious.
It’s safe to say that Independence Day is my favorite day of the year. I get to see my entire family, which doesn’t happen often. My aunts, uncles and cousins travel from all over New England to meet at my Nana’s, and after hours of feasting and dancing, we head to Boston for even more eating and partying.
The Cape Verdean Association of Boston hosts an Independence Day festival at the Boston City Hall Plaza, and hundreds of people gather to celebrate Cape Verdean culture. Bands play traditional music, long lines form around every food truck, families rejoice and dance together and the entire crowd surges with energy, becoming one whole family. I am so grateful to be a part of a close-knit and prideful community.