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Columbia Spectator Staff

Merry Christmas! Boze Narodzenie! Feliz Navidad! There are hundreds of ways to say "Merry Christmas," and every culture has a different way to celebrate. This week, a number of clubs at Columbia ushered in the season to be jolly with their own holiday traditions. "En el nombre del cielo os pido posada pues no puede andar mi esposa amada!" chanted members of the Chicano Caucus outside the doors of Casa Hispanica last Saturday night. "Posadas is a Mexican religious holiday that acts out the scene from the Bible when Joseph and Mary were looking for shelter," explained Rosario Quiroz, CC '11 and club co-coordinator. She said this is the first year the Chicano Caucus observed Las Posadas, a nine-day celebration of hospitality that takes the trials of Mary and Joseph from the stage to the streets. During Posadas, carolers go to close neighbors and ask to come in for dinner by way of the song "Pidiendo Posada," which means "asking for shelter." As the first snow fell over New York City, Quiroz said the club divided into two groups. One group prepared a festive dinner, consisting of enchiladas and tacos dorados, and the other ushered in the start of Posadas from outside by chanting the Spanish song, which means "In the name of Heaven, I beg you for lodging, for she cannot walk, my beloved wife." "It was great singing outside, hearing the response inside, and being all off-tune and just winging it," said Angelica Duron, CC '12 and member of the caucus. Traditionally, the celebration is not without its religious context—there are a Mary and a Joseph amongst the visitors and a nativity scene is displayed in the home. Quiroz said the Chicano Caucus decided to de-emphasize the more overtly religious aspects of Posadas. "We were a little worried about having it because we didn't want to make it too religious, but we didn't want to remove the religious aspect, because the fact is, it's a Mexican Catholic tradition," Duron said. She added that singing the traditional religious song, playing lotería, a Mexican game similar to Bingo, and eating a festive meal, were enough to get them in the holiday spirit. "We made the Posada our own," Duron said. On the other side of the world—or at least Broadway—the Polish Student Society hosted its own unique Christmas celebration, called Wigilia, which literally means "Christmas Eve dinner" in Polish. Establishing a new tradition to supplement the old, the Polish Student Society, with the help of the Columbia Catholic Ministry, decided to open Wigilia to the general student body, said Joanna Caytas, GS '12 and the club's events coordinator. "This is just an evening of tradition and celebration and being together," she said. Caytas added that it was an evening designed to bring friends together, as not many students on campus are of Polish descent. Open seats are left for uninvited guests because in the spirit of Wigilia, everyone is invited, she said. "It's great that we have such a diverse body of guests," she said. Among the non-Polish guests was Daniel Gutterman, a lecturer at the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian, and Eastern European studies. "I have a number of Polish friends. I've been to Poland once, and had a number of Polish students in law classes at Central European University. The Poles came in with a rich knowledge of their culture and heritage. It was really amazing," Gutterman said. One of the things he enjoyed the most about the dinner, he said, was talking with Jewish Theological Seminary undergraduates—several of whom have worked or studied in Poland—over helpings of Polish foods. Because it is a "fasting meal," Wiglia dinner excludes meat products, Caytas said. Food served at last Saturday's celebration included sauerkraut and mushroom pierogies, beet soup, fish, and vegetables. Every Sunday before the start of finals, the Canterbury Club, a group of campus Episcopalians, celebrates Advent lessons and carols in St. Paul's Chapel. The group collaborates with University Lutheran chaplain, Nicole Schwalbe, and the interim Episcopal chaplain, Richard Sloan, to organize the service and the dinner that follows. Peter Thompson, CC '12 and club treasurer, explained that the biggest difference between Advent lessons and carols and Christmas lessons and carols is that Episcopalians do not celebrate Christmas because it hasn't happened yet. "Instead, the service centers around the hope and expectation both for the Christmas season, as a remembrance of Christ's birth, and for Christ's second coming at the end of time," he said. By popular demand, Christmas carols such as "Joy to the World" will be sung during Sunday's service, but the focus will fall on such Advent carols as "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus" and "The Angel Gabriel," Thompson said. "Most people don't know that there's a rich and unique scriptural, musical, and liturgical tradition for the season of Advent alone, separate from the Christmas readings, music, and services," he said. news@columbiaspectator.com

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