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Sunday, May 26, 2024

North Central College: Happy holidays and holy days – celebrating religious diversity

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By Eric Doolittle, Chaplain of the College

This time of year, many are preparing to celebrate Christmas. Although it is a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, we see folks from a variety of faith backgrounds join in the Christmas festivities. My Hindu neighbors love to bring my family Christmas cookies. Muslims friends send cards celebrating the birth of “Isa” to their Christian neighbors. Menorahs and Christmas trees sit side by side, sharing their light in the long winter nights. 

Since its founding in 1861, North Central College has been a United Methodist-affiliated college. As Chaplain of the College, I encourage that relationship, as it guides our values, our mission, and how we want to live with one another, as a College community, and in the world. Welcoming and finding a place for all to feel belonging is essential on our campus because of our Christian roots.

The story of Jesus’s birth is a great reminder of our role to create safe and welcoming spaces for everyone. That includes creating space for different traditions. Last month, our South Asian Student Association hosted its annual Diwali celebration. Recently, many of our outstanding student musicians performed at the College’s annual Service of Lessons and Carols. Several Christian student organizations gathered for special Christmas celebrations. We are having dialogues exploring the intersection of Jewish and Christian traditions. Muslim students are able to continue their prayer practices in our new Multifaith Prayer Space. On January 7, the College will host the Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association and 25 different religious communities and organizations for the World Peace Day Interfaith Prayer Service. Opportunities to find community, grow in self-understanding, and find spiritual wellness continue year-round at North Central.

All of this grows out of the College’s heritage and is informed by the Nativity story central to the Christmas holiday. Las Posadas, a Christmas tradition from Central America, may embody this value most thoroughly. For several weeks, a child dressed like an angel leads processions through town, looking for lodging for Mary and Joseph. The group stops at different homes to celebrate with music and food, but they are always denied a place to stay. Each night, they celebrate mass and then bust open a star-shaped piñata — guided to it like the wise men. Finally, the procession goes to the church on Christmas Eve, where they are welcomed. With everyone gathering around the Nativity crèche, the wanderers have found a safe home.

North Central is proud to have people from so many places, faiths, and backgrounds call our campus home. In this season, may we all provide places and spaces to welcome our neighbors.

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North Central College
North Central Collegehttp://www.northcentralcollege.edu
North Central College provides students with the confidence, instruction and direction they need to exceed their personal best inside and outside of the classroom and throughout their careers. Founded in 1861 and located just 28 miles west of Chicago in the Historic District of Naperville, Ill. — named among the nation’s “Best Places to Live” by Money magazine — North Central is home to more than 2,800 students and offers 82 undergraduate majors, 67 additional undergraduate minors and concentrations, and 22 graduate degree and graduate certificate programs. Visit northcentralcollege.edu to discover why U.S. News & World Report has named North Central a “Best in the Midwest” school for 29 years in a row, and to learn more about the College’s state-of-the-art facilities and distinctive programs, particularly in the sciences and business.
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