In light of last week’s events, Montgomery County may seem the worst place to celebrate the holiday season, as headlines nationwide have deemed it the “town that took away Christmas,” alluding to the Board of Education’s controversial decision to strike all mentions of religious holidays from the county calendar in order to avoid giving Muslims their holiday of Eid al-Adha off from school. However, even MoCo cannot forego the wafting scents, dulcet sounds and pervasive spirit of giving to others that characterize the holiday season; and, as the winter holidays near, the melting pot of cultural identities and religious beliefs that is Montgomery County showcases the plethora of diverse celebration opportunities that the region has to offer.
In the city of Gaithersburg, people of every religious faith congregate for the annual Winter Lights Festival, which will offer a glowing winter wonderland on a 3.5 mile stretch through Seneca Creek State Park from Nov. 28 to Dec. 31. According to its website, the festival features more than 65 animated vignettes and 365 illuminated displays, with depictions of classic holiday scenes such as Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village and the North Pole strewn about the grounds.
For a holiday experience more tailored to the Christian faith, people from across the county can indulge in the full-length, traditional staging of the Nutcracker at the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre, playing from Dec. 5-7 and Dec. 12-14. According to the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre (MBT) website: year after year audiences are enchanted by MBT’s performances which feature student and professional dancers, fabulous costumes, and beautiful scenery – including a Christmas tree that seemingly grows forever, magical dancing dolls, marching toy soldiers, giant mice, a dazzling blizzard with dancing snowflakes and a land of luscious sweets.
For Jews looking to get their Chanukah on and celebrate the eight days of continuously burning light, myriad opportunities abound. Not only does D.C. have its free annual Menorah lighting on Dec. 16, but temples across the county host Chanukah celebrations welcome to the general public, such as Temple Beth Ami of Rockville, which is presenting a Jewish Folk Arts Festival dedicated to Human Rights on Dec. 6.
For those of African heritage, followers can make the pilgrimage to Coyoba Dance theatre in Hyattsville to celebrate the seven principles of Kwanza on Dec. 13 and 14.
People of all denominations are encouraged to donate to Montgomery County Toys for Tots to help the less fortunate and embrace the spirit of giving, using materialism for good to give the poor the same magnificent holiday season experience that makes the holidays, in my opinion, truly the most wonderful time of the year.
Article by the MoCo Student Staff Writer Allie Lowy of Wootton High School