Through the students’ lenses
By Nadine Szabo
You might see these lampions and think Chinese New Year is around the corner! You’re quite close to the truth. Although, if you wish to be specific, then call it the Spring Festival. This year the festivities will take place on February 16. However, do not let this be your reference point, as the date varies annually based on the lunar calendar.
The purpose of the festivity is to celebrate as a family and enjoy what the New Year will offer. “If you walk on the street,” describes Rachel Ju, IB Year 1 student, “you can see red lanterns literally everywhere and spring festival scrolls.” The origin of these scrolls and lanterns dates back to the legend of the New Year itself. In Chinese, New Year is “Nian,” an allusion to a bull- and lion-like monster, equipped with horns, which terrorized Chinese civilians for decades during scarce winters. An intelligent child noticed that the beast feared fire and the color red. Thus, the villagers put bamboos on fire to scare it away. Natives also put up red lanterns and red spring scrolls to increase the effect. Ever since, these beautiful adornments became a large part of the joyful and boisterous mood, which is no longer threatened by Nian.
Traditionally, families eat dumplings, spring rolls and rice cakes. Unfortunately, “there’s no rice cakes here,” says Rachel. To keep in touch with their background when in a foreign country, the Ju family revels in a huge New Year dinner, watches a Chinese television show specifically produced for New Year’s Eve and gives out red packets to the children. The latter is “money in red envelopes.”
Valentine’s Day. You might think it’s clichéd or cute, but one thing is certain, every country has different outlooks and traditions when it comes to February 14th. “Honestly I didn’t even know about Valentine’s Day,” says Eleonore Vaida, about her knowledge of the holiday prior to attending this school. This is due to the fact that Valentine’s Day is not considered important in France. In fact, the majority thinks it’s too cheesy. Now, that might come as a surprise because France, especially Paris, is known for its romantic atmosphere, but according to Eleonore “usually French people aren’t very ‘romantic’ that way.” A flower may be given to your partner, but other than that they don’t make a fuss about it.
Just as in France, Valentine’s Day is simply another day to most people in Greece. Greeks, especially teenagers, do not take notice of it. If a couple, usually a married one, takes some effort to make a differentiation, then they “stick to traditions of going out together, buying chocolate or cakes for one another,” says Matt Pelekis, IB Year 1 student. Their go-to food is predominantly the famous gyros. In Greece, Valentine’s day is overshadowed by the preparations for a March national and religious holiday held on the 25th. It not only commemorates the Greek rebellion against the Turks in 1821, but also celebrates the Feast of Annunciation, which is when Christ the Son incarnated in the form of Virgin Mary’s child. Arrangements for Easter are also begun and soon the Greeks will savor their Lamb cooked in the spit.
Beside the world city Istanbul, which has adopted the celebratory day, Valentine’s Day is off Turkey’s radar, “but family and love are crucial in every Turk’s life,” recounts Tuana Yalcinkaya. On the other hand, the Italians put a religious twist on February 14th. San Valentino, otherwise known as Saint Valentine, is celebrated as the protector of lovers, as a Catholic tradition. “It’s a romantic holiday,” articulates Marco Torsello, a graduating student, “but it has a religious aspect as well.”
Speaking of Italian customs, they, and many other countries such as France and Croatia, hold a Carnival annually, which is a period of public revelry at a regular time, involving processions, music, dancing, and the use of masquerade. In France, the last day of this Carnival is February 13, called ‘Mardi Gras’. On this wonderful day, the French get to eat even more traditional patisserie than usual. Crepes, waffles, oreillettes, Merveilles and Bugnes are enjoyed throughout France. This day is in juxtaposition with the Christian Lent, during which food is expected to be scarce in your kitchen.
In Croatia, students dress up individually, each according to their style, or coordinate a class theme for their costumes. According to Nika Balen, big parades are held in the crowded, festive streets of Croatian cities, usually urban areas such as Rijeka and Samobor. It is held before the Christian Lent, as the last chance to be careless and let go of the worries that hunt people’s daily lives. Nika’s favorite part of the marvelous Carnival is the televised, major event in Rijeka, which leads to the central path called Korzo. She attended it when she was little and loves it because of “the amount of effort and creativity people put into their costumes and carts.” The fun can last for hours, as most of Croatia, as well as neighboring countries, join in on the amusement.