Holiday cheer, events shared with int’l students

Animesh Choudhury|Staff Jennifer Smith, program coordinator of the International Student Services Office, invites new students to the U.S. to learn about the traditions of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, along with the local holiday events.

Halloween, Christmas among traditions taught to newcomers

International students learned the spirit, traditions and nuances of the American holiday season during the How to Celebrate “The Holidays” workshop on Oct. 18.
Jennifer Smith, program coordinator for the International Student Services Office, led a one-hour interactive presentation that detailed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. The workshop dealt with the history, traditions and good places to celebrate these festivals in Dallas.
Qingyun Wang, a computer science graduate student from China who’s in her first semester at UTD, quickly pointed out the importance of knowing local traditions.
“I did not know that the pumpkins kept outside were for sale, and now I know,” Wang said.
The superstitions behind Halloween and its current practices elicited curious questions from the attendees. Smith presented tips on trick-or-treating, giving out candy and visiting haunted houses. In addition to tips, she also stressed safety measures such as handing out individually rapped, unopened candy.
Nimisha Gupta, a first-year computer science graduate student from India, said it is good to know about places to visit during the holidays.
“I am definitely going to be visiting a haunted house now and see if they are scary,” Gupta said.
Halloween was followed by Thanksgiving and along with the explanations, Smith pointed out that ISSO and Residential Life services will be hosting a free Thanksgiving lunch at 11 a.m. on Nov. 28 at the South Residence Hall. The meal will feature all the traditional items and a vegetarian option as well. Students are encouraged to come early, as the event is popular amongst those who are on campus during the holiday.
Black Friday, its amazing shopping deals and the fervor of the shoppers were briefly explained. Students were told of long shopping lines in the cold as shoppers eagerly wait for fantastic deals.
Aniket Hadge, a first year computer science graduate student from India, was happy to hear about specific events that go on during these holidays.
“(The workshop) helped us because it told us where we needed to go to celebrate these festivals in Dallas and on campus,” Hadge said.
Christmas was next and required the least explanation, as most students were well aware of its traditions due to the influx of Hollywood movies on the subject. All attendees had seen many Christmas themed movies such as “Home Alone.” The workshop participants also engaged in a lively discussion of how Christmas was celebrated in their own countries, which had different traditions and local customs. One student talked about a unique custom in Mumbai, India that involves dressing up a mannequin and placing it outside the house with a donation box. All of the contributions from each home are donated to charity.
The big New Year’s Eve celebration at Victory Park in Dallas rounded off the workshop with video clips from the past. Students were told of famous American traditions such as the ball drop in Times Square, kissing someone lucky at the stroke of midnight and toasting New Year’s by drinking champagne.

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