Question of the Week: Finding Holiday Traditions Part 2

Part 1 of the Question of the Week looked at what it’s like to celebrate Thanksgiving in the U.S. – what do international students do for Thanksgiving and how can you find your own meaning in the holiday?

In this part we look at what it’s like to be far from home and your own holiday traditions. We asked what holiday traditions from home you would miss most while studying in the U.S.

It turns out it can be really difficult to be away from friends and family during the holidays. Watching Americans celebrate Thanksgiving can stir up some of these feelings of homesickness as well.  “I hate it,” Iranian student Bahareh Bakhtiari told The Shorthorn about Thanksgiving. “On campus it’s really quiet and nobody is around.”

But, many students say they are also developing new holiday traditions in the U.S. – new ways to spend their favorite holidays with family, or ways to celebrate the holiday with newfound friends.

Here are some of your stories and pictures:

Tet

So my favorite in Tet is food. Do you know ? Tet cake is a kind of cake which make from Sticky rice. It’s fabulous. And then we have special traditions like lucky money that all family can lack. may be you know, lucky money is a kind of money , children can receive them from their parents or relatives and adult. then they wish adult has a good healthy. oh, and pieces of the Tet celebration I could recreate if I were overseas : traditional games, lucky money, Tet cake. but If I were overseas I coundn’t never find spirit of Tet festival.

Facebook fan Bibi John

Tet parade in California, by The BaoHouse on Flickr
De Anza College VSA

Chinese New Year

On Friday night, when the New Year arrived in China, I sat down in front of my computer after a cup of strong coffee, and logged into my Skype account. As expected, my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins had gathered at my grandparents’ when I called. Each one of them wanted to talk to me but also gave others the opportunity to join in. They said, “I should probably cut this short as your aunts are waiting to talk to you,” but then went on for five more minutes of fast talking before shouting, “Quick, whose turn is it?”

My mom kept repeating that she regretted having let me study abroad as now all her friends were enjoying the New Year celebration with their children but I wasn’t with her. People generally worry that international students have a hard time during their holidays, but parents are the ones who suffer more.

Dragons on sale in New York, by DJOtaku on Flickr
"BUY US!"

My cousins described how good the food was, a game they started after I once mentioned that American food cannot be compared to Chinese cuisine. The call lasted for more than an hour and was followed by calls to other family members and friends.

Later, when I chatted with some friends online, one of them asked if I had celebrated the New Year in any traditional way. She felt sorry for me when I replied no. But with all those calls and messages, I did have a huge celebration. After all, what really matters in any holiday is the people with whom you celebrate.

Jing Gao, Chinese student at Mount Holyoke, written in Mount Holyoke News

Photo by graciepoo on Flickr
shrimpy goodness

As the evening began, preparations for the filling of the Chinese dumplings started. A drumming beat of cabbage being chopped sounded off the cutting board, and the whine of a meat grinder cried as it pulverized the pork shoulder. The smell of ginger wafted in the air as it hit the stir fry pan. As the filling was being made, a small crew of people assembled at the kitchen table, wetting their fingers in a water bowl, and unwrapping the dough patty packages. As the dumpling fillings came from the kitchen, the hands at the table started to spoon it out onto the patties. Each person at the table had their own unique way of folding up the dumplings.  Some of the Chinese students folded up the dumplings in ornate ways with carefully creased edges.

Celebration at Lorain County Community College, written in The Collegian

Diwali

Given the scale of celebrations that go on in India, Diwali has been a fairly low key event for me here in the US; it’s always like just another day at school. But this year was different; my school’s Indian Student Association and the University Ministry which promotes cultural diversity and dialogue organised a Diwali celebration and it was great.

Diwali fireworks at the University of Texas, by Niyantha on Flickr
UT Tower Fireworks - 3

It was on a cold November afternoon that I walked into the busy student center after a really long class on professional writing. Once on the floor, I heard a faint Bollywood tune coming from a room in the far end and I swiftly made my way towards it, excited. The Diwali party had kicked off to a great start and the brightly lit room with Diwali decorations felt like a cultural oasis in the middle of a boring Tuesday. I made it just in time to devour the samosas and gulab jamun’s which vanished in minutes. I also taught my friend a few Bollywood moves as we all danced around in a circle. It was also funny to see how a bunch of my friends were trying to be DJ’s by going on YouTube to play the next hit Bollywood song.

Indian student Ronak Jain in i-Studentlife

We also came across these stories of how campuses celebrated:
Nowruz
Eid al-Adha
St. Nicholas