Traditional and new celebrations

International students celebrate holiday season in Buffalo, others return home

The Spectrum

Myrto Anastasiadou, a freshman history major, misses her family back home in Cyprus.

Though some students don't have the opportunity to go home for the holidays, Anastasiadou is counting down the days until her flight takes off from Buffalo to her home in Greece. She is one of approximately 5,500 international students at UB - some of whom are making new holiday traditions in Buffalo, while others are reuniting with family abroad.

As a freshman, Anastasiadou is getting used to being far from home for an extended period of time.

Before she spends her winter break at home, she plans to celebrate Thanksgiving in New York City and looks forward to exploring the city for the first time.

"As Greek Christians, we go to church on Dec. 25," Anastasiadou said. "My whole family celebrates Christmas in one house. We eat food, especially my mom's stuffed turkey."

She couldn't imagine celebrating the holidays anywhere other than her home. She misses traditional Greek food, especially "souvia" - a dish with either chicken or pork, roasted over a flame. It's a typical Cypriot food, she said.

On New Year's Eve, Anastasiadou and her family go out at night and, on the first day of the new year, they exchange presents. On New Year's Day, Santa Claus traditionally visits her home, she said.

On Jan. 6, she and her family celebrate the day that Christ was baptized.

"It's a tradition that mostly old women do," Anastasiadou said. "They go to the rivers and drop fruits and vegetables into it because the water is holy that day."

She and her family participate in that tradition, too.

Afterward, they go home and cook honey puffs called "loukoumades," which she said are "very delicious."

The workload and cultural differences in Buffalo make her miss home even more, but thinking of going home for the holidays in just a few weeks helps her push through.

"Christmas is a great motivation to work hard for my finals," she said.

Anastasiadou is eager to visit her family and engulf herself in her culture's traditions before she has to return to her studies at UB.

Some students don't have the opportunity to visit their homes for the holidays.

Sharon Vadapalli, a sophomore biological sciences major, is used to large festivals and celebrations during the holidays. She is accustomed to colorful saris, loud Indian music blasting through speakers, colorful lights covering the streets, dancing and good food. Vadapalli was born in India, where her extended family still lives.

She and her parents moved to Buffalo 17 years ago; though she loves the city and America's opportunities, she misses the Indian culture and her family most during the holiday season. She, as well as other UB students who have extended families in other countries, feel lonely celebrating with small groups when they are used to grand celebrations.

"We go back and visit every two or three years, but we don't do much [in Buffalo] involving the Indian culture during the holidays," Vadapalli said. "We just wear our fancier Indian clothing."

This year, Vadapalli will celebrate the holidays as a traditional American, as she and her family will eat turkey at the dinner table on Thanksgiving and decorate their house for Christmas. Her family got a tree, which they will cover with ornaments, and they plan to put presents under the tree on Christmas morning.

She is excited to celebrate the holidays traditionally, however, she does wish she could celebrate with the rest of her Indian family.

"The problem is distance, but we do Skype to make it seem like we are there," Vadapalli said. "And we still make the best of holidays here."

Vadapalli and her parents plan to go to the Christian Fellowship Church in Amherst, in hopes that celebrating with their church will fill the void of their extended family back home.