International students discuss the holidays and traditions they celebrate from around the world

Published by adviser, Author: Daniel DiFabio - New Team, Date: December 1, 2016

International students at SRU shared some of the activities and traditions they do on their respective holidays in their home countries.

Dong Nguyen, finance and information systems major, is from Vietnam. He said that the holiday he celebrates there with his family is the Chinese New Year. Nguyen said he’s excited for the holiday because he’ll get to hang out with family and have a nice meal. Most of all, he is excited for “lucky money”, which is given to him from family members.

Shaheer Jilanee, computer science major, is from Bangladesh and celebrates Eid al-Fitr. This holiday starts with the family going to a local mosque, where they say a special prayer. After the service the family goes home and eats food. One notable tradition is where the family shows respect to their elders.

“There’s a way we respect our elders where we kind of go down and touch their feet,” Nguyen said. “It’s symbolic for respect.”

Nguyen said the elder then usually gives the person showing respect a gift. Gifts don’t have to be physical though, as one can donate to charity or help feed the poor during the holiday as well.

Nguyen said he is most looking forward to visiting with friends and family.

“I have a huge extended family,” Nguyen said. “Once we all get together it’s a huge party that’s always fun.”

Yannick Santoyo is a management major from Germany, where he celebrates Saint Nicholas day on Dec. 6. This consists of putting a boot out overnight for Saint Nicholas, who fills the boot with candy and chocolate. Santoyo said that he, unfortunately, won’t be able to go home.

“I wish I could go home,” Santoyo said. “I’m just excited to get candy like chocolates and all the Christmas stuff.”

Lilla Pallas, a sports management major from Hungary, also celebrates with Saint Nicholas Day and said the holiday is mainly for children, who receive things like tangerines and peanuts in their boots. Bad kids don’t get sweets however, and are instead punished. Pallas said that Saint Nicholas’ friends, known as Krampus come around dressed in black, but are mostly there to be funny.

Kevin Xu, an accounting major from China, said that he celebrates Spring Festival in January and February, where older family members give out money. Xu said he is excited to get to go home and receive money.

Lena Kohnen, a public relations major from Belgium, said that on Christmas Eve she celebrates with her family by dipping food like mushrooms into melted cheese, and also visiting family and receiving presents.

Parto Bhrn, a chemistry major from Iran, says her family uses the holiday seasons to travel and spend time together. Bhrn jokingly said her favorite part about being home is being able to travel and just relax.

Deliana Martinez, a resort recreation and hospitality management major from the Dominican Republic, said some of her holidays are similar to one’s celebrated in the U.S. On Christmas Eve, a huge dinner is prepared and everyone dresses up for the occasion, Martinez said.

Pretty much every holiday that is celebrated in the U.S. is also celebrated in the Dominican Republic, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Martinez said. Christmas Eve is filled with dancing and food, but the dinner doesn’t begin until 7 or 8 p.m. and will go until 4 or 5 a.m., Martinez said.

Koki Kawaguchi, an athletic training major from Japan, said that New Year’s in the U.S. is celebrated similarly in Japan. The New Year’s celebration lasts from Jan. 1-3, and involves everyone going into a temple and making a wish for something good to come in the new year, Kawaguchi said. In the morning osechi is prepared, which is just a New Year’s dish made up of several different foods, Kawaguchi said.

Dawa Rawat, a sophomore information systems major from India, said the major celebration they do is Diwali, a  festival of lights. Every house decorates with lights to cover every section, similar to what the U.S. does for Christmas, Rawat said. This holiday signifies the victory of light over darkness, and is something special to see, Rawat said. The lights normally seen on houses in the US are smaller than what is used to decorate these houses, Rawat said. Rangoli, which is an art decoration created in the living rooms or courtyards of some homes, is a big part of the Diwali festival celebration, Rawat said. Decorative diyas are also used, and these are just small clay decorative lamps made for the festival, Rawat said.

Bengisu Cura, an education major from Turkey, said Ramadan as well as the Greater Eid (Eid al-adha) are the most important holidays celebrated in Turkey. Ramadan is a 30-day fast, in which people of Turkey don’t eat between certain hours, Cura said. Greater Eid is great because all of the meat that isn’t consumed is given to help out the poor so they can eat as well, Cura said.

The food is split into thirds, with a third going to the families, a third to the relatives and a third to the poor, Cura said.

Isuri Rajapaksa, an integrated marketing communication major from Sri Lanka said that she celebrates the Buddhist New Year on April 14. She and her family wear colors based on astrological star signs.

She also prepares food with her family and takes plates to friends and family to share. At the end of the day, the family gathers and counts how much money they made.

Although Rajapaksa can’t return home, saying that the ticket would be around $2000, she said she would be excited to see her family during the holiday.

“We get enough of being around them at times because of how annoying they get, but on that day it’s like everybody gets together so it’s filled with joy,” Rajapaksa said.


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