International students embrace American holidays

Mahriah Schmidt
Mesa Legend

The holidays are upon us and while many students celebrate the season surrounded by family and friends, there is a group of students on campus that aren’t accustomed to celebrating in the same ways. During the spring 2015 semester, there were approximately 272 International Education students attending MCC, according to Dennis Mitchell, director of research in MCC’s Office of Research and Planning. They originated from 27 different countries, most of which from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and China. In the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with family and friends while feasting on turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie and there is always a handful of football games on T.V. Christmas is spent with family, exchanging gifts and eating Christmas dinner, which usually features turkey, ham or goose as the centerpiece.

In Arizona, many hispanic families make tamales as part of their Christmas traditionsand share them with neighbors and friends.  The New Year is spent celebrating the culmination of a year’s-worth of memories, struggles and achievements with the promise of better tomorrows waiting just after midnight. Raed Aljanabi, a business major, is acclimating to American holiday customs.  Originally from Saudi Arabia, he celebrated Halloween by dressing up in a costume and plans to partake in a turkey dinner with friends for Thanksgiving. “In our country, we have two holidays that we spend with family and eating food,” Aljanabi said. “We wear traditional clothes. We don’t do Christmas.” Although he’s never celebrated Christmas before, he plans on spending it out on the town with friends. In Muslim cultures like Aljanabi’s, there are two official holidays, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.

Eid Al-Fitr–also known as the “Feast of Breaking the Fast”–takes place over several days and marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. During Eid Al-Fitr, Muslims practice many rituals including offering prayers, wearing the finest clothing and perfume, contributing to charity, and expressing happiness.

Eid Al-Adha is also known as the “Feast of the Sacrifice” and refers to Abraham’s sacrifice to God. Those who celebrate this holiday are expected to wear fine clothing, perform prayers and sacrifice their best animal, which is then divided and shared between the family, their relatives and the needy. For those who do not own any livestock, contributions can be made in lieu.   In China, Christmas is a commercialized notion, rather than a religious one and is typically only celebrated in larger cities, according to www.whychristmas.com, a website that outlines Christmas traditions throughout the world.

Giving the gift of apples on Christmas Eve has become a popular custom in China. In South Africa, Christmas is celebrated in the summer because the continent lies in the Southern Hemisphere. A traditional dinner consisting of turkey or duck, along with yellow rice, raisins and vegetables is served. Afterward, Malva pudding is eaten. Much like China, Japan celebrates Christmas in a light-hearted way and is not widely revered. It’s treated much like Valentine’s Day is in America with gifts and dates. Any international students at ASU that have family to celebrate Thanksgiving with need only to venture to the Memorial Union to find a warm family atmosphere.

The Muslim Students Association is hosting the Interfaith Thanksgiving dinner on November 19 at 5:00 p.m. The Association invites people of all faiths and cultures to share Thanksgiving with one another in the Memorial Union in order to learn about different traditions  For any MCC student–international or otherwise–who may not be able to spend the holidays with family or want someone to share the day with, the International Friendship Club is a great way to build friendships with students from other cultures. They provide opportunities for students to socialize and learn from one another. The International Friendship Club meets every Tuesday and Thursday on campus. You can find more information about the International Friendship Club at internationalfriendshipclubmcc.com.

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These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.

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