Let’s face it – Nebraska is not the most diverse place. 

Growing up as a military child, I had the unique opportunity to travel and live in a myriad of different states and countries. This immersed me in various cultures and their respective traditions and holidays. Across the U.S. and Western culture, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween are prominent staples. With such a heavy emphasis on these celebrations, it’s easy to forget that there are many other holidays from different cultures that people can learn about or partake in.

From my experiences of celebrating culturally diverse holidays, I believe that the cultural exposure can be enriching for anyone. Holidays are meant to bring people together; it only makes sense that all holidays be recognized or — better yet — celebrated.

With college as a condensed melting pot of different cultural backgrounds and faiths, now is a better time than ever to start exploring the traditions of every student.

Leading the fall holidays on Sept. 25 is Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year. As a Jewish individual, I remember growing up and being excited for Hanukkah, and not any of my other holidays. Now that I am an adult, I hold a special fondness for Rosh Hashanah and all of the other Jewish holidays and traditions. 

Jewish or not, Rosh Hashanah is a celebration that incorporates self-reflection and gratitude, something which is applicable to everyone. Similar to the Western new year, Rosh Hashanah is a time to look back on the past year. This is done to recognize how far you’ve come, be proud of where you are and set intentions on how you want to grow as a person in the new year. 

A central element of Rosh Hashanah is apologizing to people you may have wronged and coming to peace with all the mistakes made in the past year. This is accompanied by some great traditional treats, including: apples dipped in honey, challah bread, tzimmes and kugel. These sweet treats aren’t tradition by coincidence either; sweet foods are eaten specifically in hopes of having a sweet year.

Around Halloween is Diwali. Diwali is a festival of lights celebration that is practiced by many Indian people, as well as Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist people. Taking place on Oct. 24, though the date changes yearly, Diwali is a holiday I look forward to every year. 

I first learned about and celebrated it when I lived in Singapore. I had many culturally diverse friends, one of which was a Hindu girl, and her family invited me to celebrate Diwali with them. All of us got henna tattoos on our arms while lighting lanterns and feasting on some traditional food. Even though I moved away from Singapore, I have made it my own tradition to celebrate Diwali every year. At its core, Diwali remains an important holiday to me for what it stands for: light triumphing over darkness and good defeating evil. 

This holiday can be celebrated by spending time with friends and family, trying new clothing styles, visiting new places and indulging in a traditional Diwali feast. While the list of Diwali foods are seemingly endless, some of my personal favorites include coconut burfi, kaju katli and vegetable samosas.

The Lunar New Year — commonly called Chinese New Year — was one of my favorite celebrations I got to experience when I lived overseas. My apartment building threw a lavish party, and the streets of Singapore were flooded with lanterns and life. As is tradition, most restaurants and buildings left out red envelopes with bits of money in them. Topping off the celebrations, nothing compares to the parade-like ceremonies with giant paper dragons and fireworks.

While I do not have the privilege of being in Singapore for the upcoming Lunar New Year on Jan. 23, 2023, I will definitely be partaking in the spirit of the new year. Activities such as gift-giving, putting up decorations and lighting lanterns help embody the full liveliness of the holiday. Indulging in a feast is also a must. My favorite Lunar New Year dishes include dumplings, rambutan, nian gao and almond cookies.

All of the diverse holidays I experienced have taught me what it really means to be part of a community. What I experienced is only a fraction of what holidays are coming up this season. All students should look into the different cultural associations on campus and some of their events. Taking an interest in overlooked holidays would help create a better sense of community within the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a better sense of community is definitely worth celebrating.

Alexia Woodall is a sophomore secondary education, secondary English and journalism major. Reach her at alexiawoodall@dailynebraskan.com.