Feast Celebrates Many Faiths

Interfaith Council holds holiday celebration with foods from many traditions

Rachel M. Douglas

Students sample foods from many different religious traditions at The Harvard Interfaith Council holiday event in Ticknor Lounge last night.

With tables lined with samosas, jelly doughnuts, and rice pudding, seven faith-based organizations started the holiday season early at yesterday evening’s third annual Interfaith Holiday Celebration held by the Harvard Interfaith Council.

“One of the goals of the Interfaith Council is to build friendship between different groups,” said Jessamin H. Birdsall ’10, the chair of the Interfaith Council. “This event is a great way for people to informally get together and to celebrate the holiday season together.”

In addition to providing gingerbread cookies, shortcake, candy canes, and food associated with the traditions of each faith, the event educated the attendees with poster presentations that described the tenets of each faith.

The Latter Day Saints Student Association welcomed visitors with home-baked cookies and brownies and also provided copies of The Book of Mormon in several languages.

The Harvard College Buddhist Community served rice pudding—said to have been fed to Siddhartha Gautama while fasting in order to reach enlightenment, according to Buddhist Community President Mihiri U. Tillakaratne ’09.

Dharma, the Harvard Hindu Students Association, provided samosas, a traditional South Asian appetizer. While the Hindi faith does not have any holidays in December, the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, took place at the end of October.

Hillel set up a booth for Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights that begins at sundown on December 21 this year.

“It is traditional to eat really oily foods on Hanukkah, such as the sufganiot,” said Rebecca D. Gillette ’10, Hillel’s vice president for community relations, describing the jelly-filled doughnuts that adorned the table.

While the Baha’i Faith does not have any specific winter holidays that it observes, according to Harvard Baha’i Association officer Kendra N. Boothe ’09, she acknowledged that members of the faith also celebrate the holidays of other religions. The association used the celebration to highlight its belief in the “oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and the oneness of mankind,” Boothe said.

Opting for hot wings at last years event, the Harvard Islamic Society instead provided baklava and dates this year as traditional foods eaten to break fast during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, according to the society’s president Tariq N. Ali ’09.

The Interfaith Council was founded in 2004 to promote awareness and understanding between religions represented on campus.