The end of the year is on the horizon, bringing with it a new decade as well.

As with every year, the tried and true holidays will be celebrated. Christmas trees will be lit, Thanksgiving turkeys will be consumed.

However, many holidays exist that many Dubuque residents are not aware of.

From the Chinese lunar new year to Diwali, a vast array of holidays exist that often are under-looked in the community.

The Telegraph Herald spoke with local experts on some of those holidays in the area, along with what are some possible future holidays that could be conceived.

Religious holidays

While Christianity remains the dominant religion of the area, several smaller communities formed from other global faiths have also taken root.

Every October or November, the Hindus in the tri-state area celebrate Diwali, a five-day celebration and festival of lights.

The Jewish holiday Hanukkah is widely known by most members of the public, but another major Jewish holiday is Passover, which takes place in March or April. The holiday commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from ancient Egypt.

Najla Habibullah, president of the Tri-State Islamic Center, said Muslims also practice several major holidays that often go unnoticed by the larger community.

She pointed to Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting. The day is started with an early morning prayer and a modest breakfast to break the fast. A prayer service is then held, which includes a sermon from the religious leader.

“It’s usually mostly about appreciation, keeping the good word and being thankful to God,” Habibullah said.

She noted that much of the rest of the holiday is spent as a way for the community and families to come gather and celebrate.

“It’s all about getting together as a family,” she said.

Historical holidays

Not all holidays are religious in nature. Many have been established to celebrate famous historical figures or movements.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is devoted to the famed civil rights leader. Labor Day celebrates efforts made to improve the quality of life of workers.

Brian Hallstoos, associate professor of history at the University of Dubuque, said there is room for more historical holidays that bring to light aspects of American society that he believes deserve more recognition.

“I feel there are many groups of people who have not enjoyed the freedoms and the rights that our founding documents express,” Hallstoos said. “It’s important to recognize their efforts and their story.”

Nationally, Hallstoos suggested the development of a holiday that commemorates a woman who has had a profound impact on American history. He pointed to women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony or labor leader Dolores Huerta as examples of women that could serve as symbols for the great accomplishments women have made and the challenges they have endured throughout history.

“All the individuals who currently have their own national holidays are men,” Hallstoos said. “I would like to see a day that is a memorial to a woman who is celebrated.”

Hallstoos said there is also potential for a local holiday to be created that better recognizes the failings of Dubuque’s history.

He stressed the importance of creating a holiday that recognizes historical racism and racial violence that has been perpetrated in the past. He suggested a holiday that recognizes the death of Nathaniel Morgan, who was beaten and lynched in 1840.

“We need to talk about racial violence in Iowa,” Hallstoos said. “We need to remember people like this in an effort to prevent something like that from happening again.”

Ultimately, Hallstoos said he believes holidays can go a long way in encouraging people to think and reflect on a subject. If more holidays were to be created, he feels they should be made as a way for people to consider how to make the country better and consider those that mainstream history has forgotten.

“I think it’s important to instill in us a sense of humility,” Hallstoos said. “We are a wonderful nation, but we need to remember those times that we really drop the ball.”

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