Family traditions

Published Dec 4, 2013 at 5:54 am (Updated Dec 2, 2013 at 2:46 pm)

The South Hills is a very diverse area. Many holidays are celebrated in addition to Christmas and Hanukkah. Several Peters Township residents shared their unique holiday traditions.

Mila Shadel and her family celebrate most holidays, but being of Italian descent, Christmas Eve is the one that stands out.

“We celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, or La Vigilia, on Christmas Eve, which is literally a giant Italian feast filled with fish,” Mila said. “There are five courses with seven fish spread throughout, except for dessert, which is the last course.” She added that La Vigilia represents abstaining from meat in the Italian-American community. “We also go to my grandmom’s house for Christmas day.”

Mila said that to her, the holiday means family and fun. “Spending time with family is the one thing I truly look forward to.”

Traci Chen also celebrates most holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, but her family also celebrates Chinese New Year.

“We put up little red lanterns near New Years’ for Chinese New Year, and we always eat dumplings!” She said her family also wears red for good luck, “and the little kids get red envelopes filled with money from the adults. It’s called hong bao.” For Traci, the holidays mean friends and fun times with family.

For Michael Kentros, holiday celebrations focus on the religious holidays, like Christmas and Easter, with Easter being the most sacred.

“Being here in the states for so many years, our family traditions are very much like most Americans. However, growing up in the ’50s in Greece, the traditions were very basic and simple,” he explained. “For Christmas, my youngest sister and a cousin were responsible for scouting the woods to find the perfect tree. The tree trimming was very basic, with some ornaments, and most importantly, a homemade manger. We did not have Christmas lights since we did not have electricity.”

On Christmas Eve, Michael said the family went to church. “There were no gifts under the tree.”

On New Year’s morning, the family went to church again. “After church service, our relatives stopped by and our uncles gave all the kids money, and very little at that. That was the extent of our gift giving,” he said.

A New Year’s tradition for the Kentros family was sharing a Vasilopita cake Michael’s mother had baked. “She would hide a coin in the batter, and then the cake was cut in enough pieces for everyone in the house. Whoever received the piece with the coin was to receive good luck and good health for the entire year!” Michael said his family continues the tradition to this day.

For Michael, the holiday season reminds him of family and how fortunate he is.

Julianna Chen is a seventh-grader at Peters Township Middle School.

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