South students engage in varying cultural holiday traditions

Mia Merchant, staff reporter

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, and the streets are empty and the trees are lifeless, GBS students begin thinking about the inner warmth of the holidays. At South, students celebrate the holidays in a variety of ways, whether it’s with family or friends, and with special traditions that make the holiday season memorable.

According to freshman Lia Kritikos, cookie baking is an annual tradition in her family, and the girls on her dad’s side come together and bake right before Christmas. Kritikos says her mom makes famous peanut butter cookies and cooks a variety of Greek food such as spanakopita and tiropita.

“They’re really crispy,” Kritikos said. “The cheese [spanakopita] is made out of feta [and] olive oil, and you fold it, either in triangles or rectangles, and you wrap it in phyllo […] pretty much my whole family can make it.”

Similar to Kritikos, freshman Madeline Appel explained that she celebrates Christmas with a cultural twist: Austrian traditions.

“We have this little itty bitty glass pickle ornament and one of my parents hides it in the tree on Christmas Eve,” Appel said. “The first person to find this Christmas Pickle gets an extra present.”

According to Appel, her family also eats a traditional Austrian dish called apple strudel. She used to make it when she was younger.

“[ I ] used to knead the dough and cut up the apples and spice it with cinnamon and honey and throw it in the oven,” Appel said. “The aroma that would come from the oven would fill the house and would smell so good.”

On Christmas Eve, Senior Natalie Kuca explained that she celebrates Wigilia, a Polish feast. Her whole family gathers around one big table, Kuca says, and eats traditional dishes such as fried fish and mushroom soup.

“We have these really thin wafers,” Kuca said. “We go to each person and they break a piece [and] we tell each other one thing we wish to happen in the New Year.”

While other families put more emphasis on Christmas, junior Sydney Scott and her family get together for Thanksgiving, which is their biggest holiday.

“One of my family friends, we were best friends when we were 6 and we’re still really good friends,” Sydney said. “She is now going to college next year… which is crazy to think that we’re all that old[…] when we were all just little kids sitting the cabin on Thanksgiving eating dinner and hanging out.”

The month of Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims around the world, which follow the Islamic lunar calendar, so the dates change every year. Freshman Yasmeen Mohammed Rafee fasts every day from sunrise to sunset during this month.

“It is rigorous, but you really get used to it,” Rafee said. “It’s[…] cleansing in a spiritual way.”