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Wednesday, December 11, 2019 — Houston, TX 51°

How Rice students from around the world celebrated the holidays

By Lisa Shi     1/15/19 11:02pm

Connor Rothschild, Martel Sophomore

The last week of the year is extra special for Rothschild; not only does his family celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, but it’s his mother’s birthday as well. Rothschild has always enjoyed spending time with his family, and this year he was able to meet someone new.

“My brother and sister-in-law recently had their first kid, so it’s been awesome to interact with a new face during holiday get-togethers,” he said. 

Rothschild has a bit of a sweet tooth when it comes to holiday treats. 

“I really like cranberry sauce and peppermint bark,” he said. “I’m pretty much good with everything except eggnog – that stuff is nasty.”

This year for Christmas, Rothschild’s father gifted the family with an hour of ax throwing at a local ax throwing bar in his hometown of Springfield. 

“It was the most Missouri thing I’ve done in a long time, but I had a lot of fun,” he said. 

Rothschild’s New Year’s resolutions are to read more, use his phone less, get better at running and to get really good at Super Smash Bros. 

“I want to beat my roommate, Jaylen Carr,” Rothschild said.

Wangden Sherpa, Lovett Senior

For Sherpa’s Tibetan Buddhist family, the main holiday and festival is Lhosar, the Lunar New Year. Lhosar, which is set for early February this year, happens during classes. Sherpa hasn’t been able to go home to celebrate the holiday the past two years. 

Instead, his family brings the holiday to him. Sherpa’s family members usually fly to Houston to visit him so they can celebrate together. 

“We all wake up early in the mornings and eat special food that we only prepare during the New Year while dressed in traditional Sherpa clothing,” Sherpa said. “We then spend the day visiting friends and family, and together we welcome the new year.”

Sherpa particularly appreciates the preparation for the holiday. 

“Every year we spend a whole day making khapse, a sweet, deep-fried pastry that we usually only make for Lhosar,” he said. “The whole family comes together and each member has their own task: kneading and rolling out the dough, making the patterns and frying. It’s always a really fun day spent with family and ends with the reward of being able to eat freshly made khapse, which is always a treat.”

Sherpa spent part of his break in San Jose, California visiting his aunt and uncle. 

“It was really incredible to be able to see other parts of America that aren’t Dallas and Austin,” he said. 

Mustafa El-Gamal, Will Rice Junior

During the year, El-Gamal celebrates many holidays with his Egyptian family friends, including Eid, Ramadan and Thanksgiving. 

“It’s always like a feast, which is pretty fun. Nothing crazy, just lots of good food,” he said.

El-Gamal considers food to be the best part of any holiday. He especially enjoys molokhia. 

“It’s made from nalta jute leaves, which are thinly sliced and then made into a broth – it’s been my favorite dish since I was a kid,” he said.

Over the break, El-Gamal went to Egypt to visit family, where he explored and discovered beaches and cafes. He also binge-watched all of the series “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and reorganized his Spotify, something he had been wanting to work on for a while. 

El-Gamal is looking forward to spending time with his friends, as he said he has a relatively relaxed semester ahead of him. His resolutions include going to the gym and cooking more often. 

Anitha Aadireddy, Lovett Senior

Aadireddy celebrates Christmas in December, which usually involves gift-giving and having a dinner with family and friends. But the holidays don’t end there – she also celebrates the Hindu festivals Pongal and Maha Shivaratri in January and early March, respectively.

Pongal, a harvest festival, starts right after New Year’s.

“We’ll draw designs outside our doors called muggulu or rangoli every day until the day of celebration,” she said. 

These drawings are considered to be auspicious, bringing prosperity and good luck. The family also practices pooja, an act of worship, by going to temple that day. 

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated to honor the Hindu god Shiva. 

“It’s a solemn holiday. We wake up early, start the day with a prayer to God, and fast. At the end of the day we do a pooja and then end the fast with some fruits usually. It’s supposed to be a day to show our self-restraint,” she said.

Pongal and Shivaratri are Hindu holidays that Aadireddy considers extremely meaningful. 

“I wasn’t born or raised in India, and participating in these holidays helps me reconnect with my family and friends back in India, as well as with my culture and my religion,” she said.

During the holidays, Aadireddy enjoys Indian sweets like jalebi, which is deep-fried batter in pretzel-like shapes. She also likes sheera, a dish with sugar and semolina mixed with nuts, golden raisins, bananas and coconuts.

This break, Aadireddy went home to India for a huge family reunion and to celebrate her cousin’s engagement. 

“It was nice to see family all over the world I haven’t met before or seen in a long time,” she said. 

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