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International students celebrate holidays with friends

Dec. 1, 2012

By Meagan Williford
University Marketing and Publications

The holiday season is typically a time people journey home to spend time with family and friends and celebrate. However, sometimes individuals aren’t able to make that journey home. Such is the case with ECU international students Meghan Mangal and Muhammad Mehdi.

Junior biology major Mangal from St. Lucia, an island in the southern Caribbean, and senior mechanical engineering major Mehdi from Pakistan, will both be staying in the United States for the holidays this year.

As holiday decorations appear at the home of ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard, many students are making preparations for an extended trip home. For a few, however, home is too far away to make the trip. Many of ECU's international students will enjoy the holidays with friends instead. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Mangal plans to celebrate the holidays with her friend Kellah and Kellah’s family in Knightdale, and Mehdi will stay in Greenville.

“Kellah’s family has a pre-dinner celebration on Christmas Eve, where her family and friends come together and eat Chinese food,” said Mangal. “On Christmas Day, her family goes house hopping, and then everyone comes back to her place to open gifts and have a grand dinner.”

Mangal said she is excited to celebrate with Kellah and her family and to eat great food. She is looking forward to trying American holiday foods, and her favorite holiday food from back home is black cake, which is a dense, dark fruitcake.

Mehdi plans to remain in Greenville over the holidays, talk to his family via Skype, and play tennis. His favorite holiday foods from back home are lamb roast and chicken macaroni. He holds the record for eating four fully filled plates of the delicious treat at his house.
Meghan Mangal
“I still hold that record and will never give up my title!” he said.

Both Mangal and Mehdi have fond memories from previous holidays and share what they would do if they planned to travel home for the holiday season.
Christmas is big in St. Lucia, according to Mangal. One of the Christmastime traditions celebrated there is bursting the bamboo.

“From late November, one can hear the sounds of bamboo bursting during the night,” she said. “Men in the neighborhood use kerosene and rags and sticks as fuses to make cannons out of hollowed-out bamboo.”

Another tradition recognized in St. Lucia is the Masquerade, a parade during which Masqueraders wear masks believed to have some particular meaning. The dancers wear elaborate costumes.

“Fabric, mesh, tinsel, mirrors, dried banana leaves, and sometimes paper are used to make the colorful costumes,” said Mangal. “During the performance, one or more of the members of the band approach people from the crowd to collect money, food, or sometimes rum.”

Other traditions celebrated in St. Lucia include the Festival of Lights and Renewal and Boxing Day. The festival features a lantern-making competition and the decoration of towns and villages with lights.

Boxing Day is the day after Christmas and is an extension of Christmas Day. It is a day of continued feasting and fun and there is always a horse race. Mangal said Boxing Day is one of the traditions she will miss the most.

Muhammad Mehdi
“I just love having the extended Christmas Day; it is not done here in the United States,” she said. “If I was at home, I would go to the horse race with my friends and spend the day relaxing, maybe go to the beach. My mum mentioned that there are other events like greasy pole and pudding making.”

Mehdi said that his holidays back home in Pakistan are always filled with plenty of time spent with family and friends.

“My house in Pakistan is like a family headquarters. Once we have a family holiday, everyone just starts arriving,” he said. “I am really close to my cousins; some of them are my best childhood friends.”

Mehdi has two brothers and four sisters and his family is from the city of Lahore.

“During the holidays, we have the best time because we are all together. We just get together and have a lot of fun,” he said. “There is nothing in particular we do. We just enjoy each other’s company and do all of the things we have loved doing together since we were kids.”

When he gets together with his brothers and sisters, Mehdi said they enjoy playing cricket and watching movies.

A tradition Mehdi said he will miss is enjoying Food Street with his family and friends. His hometown, Lahore is called the City of Kings, and it is a very old and traditional city. Food Street is in the old part of the city, and traditional restaurants are located on both sides of the road. According to Mehdi, people can buy all different types of foods there, and it is the best in Pakistan.

“Food Street is a very famous place for tourists as well as people from other cities. The food is finger licking good and the fun there never dies, and Lahori people are known for eating a lot,” he said. “Food Street stays open all night, and it is the best place to go with friends.”