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Traditions are a special part of the holidays

While many of those reading this column most likely are getting ready to celebrate Christmas, there are other celebrations this time of year.

That’s why it’s known as the “Holiday season.”

Whether it is Christmas and New Year’s, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, or some other festivity, this is a time for special observances in most cultures around the world.

I recently returned from a trip to Walt Disney World. There were lots of festivities and celebrations and activities, because, let’s face it, that’s what Disney does.

One of my favorite Disney parks, though, has always been EPCOT. While the others are filled with character-featured rides, photos with characters, parades and other colorful fluff, EPCOT has been more relaxed and educational.

The front of the park, currently known as Future World, is all about technology and exploration. It’s the idea of what the world could be.

The back area, World Showcase, is an international journey, featuring sections representing around a dozen nations and cultures. They’ve worked to reproduce aspects of those countries, and even employ people from each nation to lend that extra bit of legitimacy.

EPCOT has become known for its seasonal festivals, and from November into December, it features the Festival of the Holidays. As part of this festival, there are food booths and special shows, including the “holiday storytellers.” These storytellers come out a few times a day and relay tales from their homelands related to the holiday season.

There is Santa Claus in the American Pavilion, while you have Pere Noel in France and Father Christmas in the United Kingdom, and Julenissen, also known as the Barn Santa, in Norway.

There’s a guy named Zachary (not sure if it’s his real name) who talks about Hanukkah, singing some of the traditional songs and telling its history. In Italy, you learn about the Epiphany from La Befana.

Then there are areas, such as China and Japan which traditionally do not celebrate Christmas, but they do feature celebrations and stories from their New Year’s traditions.

It’s interesting to learn about how holidays are celebrated around the world. When you think about it, while there are many celebrations, there is one thing that connects it: tradition.

Whether based on your faith, your culture, your family or your community, there is something you do each year to make your holidays special. Maybe you have a trip you take each year, or a certain day you decorate your home. You can have a particular food item you make or an activity in your neighborhood.

In my home, we put up the tree and some decorations. We have a special breakfast dish we eat on Christmas morning, spend time with family, maybe watch some movies and just try to enjoy the day.

Sometimes, we go to see some light displays.

You might have a particular day for some of your holiday activities, or go to a church service. Maybe you volunteer for a local non-profit.

Is there a special way you open your gifts? Maybe there are ornaments or decorations you have kept in the family over the years.

No matter what you celebrate, or how, it really is about carrying on those traditions; passing them down to the next generation.

They unite us and others, in our home and around the world. They can be as similar or as different as each of us, but they are one more way to make this season feel special.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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