International students celebrate holidays in different ways

Photo of Thanksgiving family dinner | courtesy of Caribbean National Weekly

A common misconception about Historically Black Colleges and Universities is that they are limited to a population of only Black American students. But just like Black people, the HBCU demographic comes from a melting pot of cultures.

Especially at Florida A&M University, where the campus is located in a state home to some of the nation’s most diverse ethnic groups.

There are many similarities and differences between Black students with international backgrounds and Black Americans, which goes to show how diversity within the Black community deserves to be talked about more.

Thanksgiving, which occurred last week, and Christmas are two of the biggest holidays around this time of the year.

As fall comes to a close and winter approaches, students of various international cultural heritages reflect on the cultural traditions that make their holiday season special.

Junior broadcast journalism student Jordan Forbes has thought a lot about her traditions coming to an HBCU as a Jamaican-American student.

“This time of the year has always fascinated me when I see what meals other families eat for the holidays,” Forbes said. “It was interesting to see how different our meals looked during this time of year and how our cultures played into the types of food consumed and traditions practiced.”

Food was the most consistent example of some of the similarities and differences in traditions among Caribbean and African students, who shared their experiences.

Religion and music also played a part.

Isaac King, a senior biology pre-med student from Miami, comes from a Nigerian background. His experience with Thanksgiving is heavily influenced by his culture, but he feels as though the way he celebrates the holiday does not differ from other Black Americans.

“It’s just a day to be thankful,” King said. “Regardless of the food, I appreciate everything and everyone in my life and I consider the day to just be grateful for what God has done in my life.”

While Thanksgiving is more widely celebrated in America, and a lot of countries don’t celebrate it, there are families who like to incorporate parts of their home and traditions into the festivities.

Christmas, however, is a more universal holiday, and the festivities that occur during the winter time.

Precious Clarke, 19, is Trinidadian. Her culture has played a big part in influencing the way that she and her family celebrate Christmas, and spending time with her extended relatives in Trinidad has allowed her to see the differences in traditions compared to Americans.

“In Trinidad, instead of traditional American Christmas carols my grandpa would sing and we would play Parang, which is Spanish folklore Christmas carols,” Clarke said. “The food and the drinks are a little different during Christmas; a traditional food that is made during this holiday is pastels, roti, pumpkin, chana, curry chicken, all normal dishes that we eat in Trinidad.”

Between food, music and religious practices, there are many ways in which holidays are celebrated similarly among Black American students and those with multi-ethnic backgrounds.

However, it is important to note the differences because other cultures deserve to be recognized, and FAMU students represent this.