Celebrating the holidays across the world

Susan Koruthu, who is from Singapore, celebrates Diwali with her family. She said there are large numbers of Chinese, Indian and Malaysian people back home, who celebrate unique holidays and cultural traditions.

By Robin Dean

From Champaign to China, the world shines bright as families celebrate various holidays.

At a campus this diverse, the holiday season isn’t the same for everyone — especially for international students.

Susan Koruthu, sophomore in Engineering, said celebrating the holidays back home in Singapore is a unique experience.

“In Singapore, there are a lot of Indians, Chinese and Malaysian people, so with such a wide variety of cultures, there is always a lot of stuff happening,” Koruthu said.

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Even with many different holidays being celebrated in Singapore, Koruthu said the most prominent ones are Christmas and Chinese New Year. She described them as being full of color and decorations.

“The main shopping street is completely lit up and they always have a giant Christmas tree that you can go inside of,” Koruthu said. “There are basically lights lit up everywhere from October to February.”

Simran Jiandani, sophomore in Engineering, is also from Singapore. Unlike most people from there, Jiandani primarily celebrates Diwali by lighting candles around the house and setting off firecrackers with her family. She said this tradition began as a result of the legend of a king being exiled to a forest for 14 years and when he returned, everyone filled the sky with lights to welcome him home.

“Diwali is always fun because we don’t know how to burn the firecrackers properly, and one time we even made someone’s car tire burst because it went inside their car,” Jiandani said.

Like many people from Singapore, people from Taiwan consider Chinese New Year to be one of the biggest holidays.

Angela Lai, freshman in FAA, is from Taiwan and describes the holiday atmosphere as being full of the color red, which symbolizes good luck. She also believes the holiday is similar to Christmas in the sense that most people gather with their families for a meal and enjoy their time with one another.

One of her favorite traditions is when adults gift children red envelopes that contain money inside of them.

“Chinese New Year is my favorite (holiday) because we get a break from work,” Lai said. “I’m also glad to get together with my family because that is the only time I can see the people I don’t see often.”

Although she loves celebrating the holidays back at home, one thing she wishes people had more of is Christmas spirit. With this being her first time in the U.S. around the holidays, she said she enjoys being around people who are excited for Christmas.

Even with this in mind, Lai said there isn’t a significant difference between the way holidays in Taiwan are celebrated and how the most prominent holidays are celebrated here.

“Except it’s just in a different month,” Lai said.

Jerald Chen, a Chinese junior in Engineering, agrees the major holidays there are similar to the more popular holidays here. In China, one of the most celebrated holidays is Spring Festival in February. Chen said this holiday closely resembles Thanksgiving because of its emphasis on preparing a meal to share.

“The dinner is pretty important,” Chen said. “People cook together and spend a lot of time together. (The atmosphere) is pretty warm and you get more connected with your family.”

Chen said what makes celebrating any holiday in China distinct is the fact that it’s more of an intimate experience with friends and family.

“In America, people go out on the street to watch a countdown or live shows, which lets you hang out with different kinds of people,” Chen said. “But if you’re in China, you mostly spend your time with your family and friends, which I think is important.”

Even though different cultures may have varying traditions for the holiday season, they tend to have one major thing in common: uniting friends and family. It is this that makes the season so pleasant.

“I think that (all holidays) are similar. It is just separate times and separate things that you are celebrating,” Chen said. “But (their meaningfulness) is the same; you still gather around with your families and enjoy some good food.”

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