Welcome to Professor Rosenberg’s Spring 2011-Peopling of New York City @ Baruch College. Peopling of New York City is the second Interdisciplinary Course of the four Macaulay seminars. In this class, we investigate the population, demographics, cultures and integration of immigrants in New York City. This semester, students explored neighborhoods in the five boroughs and studied immigration patterns from the early 20th century to today. This project is our final work as we conclude the course.
For this project, our class decided to research the dynamics of how immigrants celebrate holidays in NYC. Our team of 17 students, with the help of our Instructional Technology Fellow Jill Belli and Professor Rosenberg, discovered that immigrants adapt the celebration of holidays in endless ways upon reaching New York City. Here you will be able to read about 15 different types of holidays. They range from Swedish Midsummer, which is in celebration of summer solstice, to Qing Ming Festival, which is a traditional Chinese holiday to honor family ancestors. Throughout our website you will see that many holidays have become Americanized and diluted as they are celebrated in the immigrants’ new home.
While the class was in the process of doing extensive research, different themes began to emerge. We have realized that many of the holidays that have become part of American culture today are very commercialized versions of traditional holidays. Cinco de Mayo was popularized in America by a beer company to market their product; Easter, a deeply religious observance, now supports a huge candy industry. Of course just because a holiday like Mother’s Day is extremely commercialized, does not mean that it does not also have value for those who celebrate it. This is not only done in America, a Chinese holiday called Mid-Autumn festival has created a great market for their moon cakes for Chinese all over the world.
Holidays also evolve in other ways. Dragon Boat festival is actually part of an ancient Chinese holiday called Duanwu Jie. Today, it is celebrated as a competitive sport in New York City. Another popularly celebrated holiday, St. Patrick’s Day is actually a holy day in Ireland, not a day filled with parades and beers as we conceive it here in America. Victory Day is another holiday where a clear transition can be seen, a holiday celebrated by former Soviets is now celebrated by the bikers in NYC? And International Women’s Day is apparently quite popular in Europe–how does America celebrate this holiday? Clearly these observances have shown their transition as years have gone by.
We can all agree that holidays are for happiness and celebration, but we discovered that some holidays actually rouse frustration and create conflict between communities. The Feast of San Gennaro is celebrated annually by Italian-Americans but brings angry responses from the Chinese-American community nearby. May Day also brings out passionate political feelings and is hardly a cause for “celebration” in New York City.
And what is a holiday project without the world’s most popular holiday: Christmas. But our class decided to go the extra step and compare it alongside Hanukkah which must compete for attention among Jewish immigrants. Although these two holidays have become more about the materialistic rather than their religious traditions, we have found a holiday which keeps its deeper meaning, Eid al-Fitr. During our research of religious holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid al-Fitr, Easter, Festival of San Gennaro), our class has concluded that these holidays actually help us keep connected to our religion. Many of these holidays give us a reason to remember and visit the house of worship at least once a year.
As you continue to look over our findings on holidays, we have also done research on why the government recognizes some but not others for a day of observation. The Department of Education seems to take its own approach. So, enjoy our page and learn a little about holiday celebrations among the diverse communities of New York City.
P.S. – Did you ever think about the many different ways that New Yorkers celebrate New Years Day? Amazing.