By Cristina Ludwig ’19
People around the world celebrate the holidays differently… and each country has unique traditions that come together to create cultural diversity. Cristina Ludwig ‘19 interviewed students and teachers at Lauralton about their special holiday traditions. Common themes among all of their cultures? Family, love, and celebration!
Olivia Tiberio celebrates an old, Italian tradition with her family where they make 7 different types of fish on Christmas Eve. Usually lobster, shrimp, crab, cod, scallops, tilapia, and salmon make an appearance on the menu! This tradition always reminds Olivia and her family of her great-grandparents from Italy.
Raaga Subramanian celebrates Holi, in addition to Christmas. Holi is a traditional Hindu festival where people throw colored powder and dye on each other. It is a celebration of love, goodness, and colors.
Claudia Gu and Shelly Liang celebrate the New Year back home in China. Some of their favorite traditions are giving and receiving lucky money, which comes in red envelopes, and is symbolic of energy, happiness, and good luck. They also watch an annual holiday show each year with their families. Shelly is from Beijing and Claudia is from near Shanghai.
Ms. Wieciorkowska has Polish roots and is fluent in the language! Every year, Ms. W and her family eat a Christmas Eve dinner, known as Wigilia. They have Wigilia as soon as they see the first star in the night sky. Before they eat, a prayer is said. Ms. W and her family then break an oplatek, a thin wafer with the image of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on it, and share it with one another to wish for good fortune. Next, they eat! There are 12 meatless dishes that symbolize the 12 months of the year and the 12 Apostles, as well as an extra place setting in case there is an “unexpected visitor.” There is straw underneath the tablecloth to symbolize Jesus being born in a manger of hay. After the meal, everyone gets ready for Pasterka, or Midnight Mass.
Karina Brea’s family is from the Dominican Republic. On December 24, or Noche Buena, “The Good Night,” they have a big dinner, where turkey is traditionally served. The family also does Secret Santa, but it’s called “Angelito.” Around the holidays, Karina and her family drink lots of ginger tea and also a special kind of hot chocolate. Instead of marshmallows in their cocoa, they sometimes dip in toast with butter!
Skylar Korman enjoys celebrating Hanukkah every year with her family. Every night for eight days, they light candles and exchange a gift. While they are lighting the candles, they say a blessing in Hebrew. Additionally, Skylar and her extended family gather for a party to share food and exchange gifts. Skylar’s favorite part is lighting the candles with her parents, because it’s festive and a fun way to celebrate together!
Señora Hawes grew up in Venezuela. She has carried many of her traditions to the US to share with family and friends. While Christmas and Three Kings Day are celebrated in Venezuela, the most special celebration is New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve symbolizes a fresh start for the upcoming year. To prepare, people clean their houses, wear new clothes, and throw things out. On December 31, everyone gathers for a family party with food and dancing. When midnight strikes, each person has to eat a grape for every clock chime until 12 have rung. With each grape, you are supposed to make a wish for the upcoming year. Afterward, everyone walks around the neighborhood with an empty suitcase in hopes of traveling throughout the following year. Dinner is served after the grapes and walk around the block.
Lauren Stewart returns to England every summer to see her extended family and has adopted many British traditions for the holidays. When Lauren and her family put up their Christmas tree, they always hang Cadbury chocolate ornaments around it. They also make a Christmas pudding with rum sauce and leave mince pies for Santa with a glass of milk for the reindeer. At Christmas dinner, they cook a turkey and pop Christmas “crackers” that hold a toy, a paper hat, and a joke inside!
Maria Katsetos is Greek and is fluent in the language! Maria and her family make festive Christmas cookies over the holiday season called finikia and kourambiedes. Finikia are soft, almond honey cookies and kourambiedes are sugar cookies with icing on top. To ring in the New Year, they have a special tradition, where the family makes a sweet bread or cake called vasilopita. The dessert is inspired by Saint Basil, and his role in the Greek Orthodox religion. Saint Basil used to deliver bread to the poor while hiding money inside, so that he could help the less fortunate without embarrassing them. Today, Maria and her family hide a coin in the bread, and whoever gets the coin in his or her slice has good luck for the rest of the year!
Photos: Courtney Durso ’18