Holidays can be hard to be abroad for. Being alone somewhere unfamiliar while you’re reminded that your family is all gathered together and celebrating without you isn’t fun. I’m glad that many of my family holidays are the same routine. I know who will show up for Christmas, and I know who will be at Easter. I know exactly what dishes my family is making, which one of my cousins I’ll get to see and which ones I won’t. I could probably guess people’s outfits with decent accuracy. I’m lucky to know that next year won’t be any different than this year, and I’m happy that none of the holidays I’m missing are too big of a deal to miss.
Actually, I was kind of excited to have Easter by myself. Sure, I eat less chocolate, but there’s not the stress of getting everything to my aunt’s house and looking nice and doing the same routine. I hadn’t even thought about how missing a holiday could be difficult, unless maybe I was missing Christmas, but then again my family didn’t end up having traditional Christmas this year. I never even really considered myself missing anything, and hadn’t realized others were too until I was invited to Passover dinner by one of the girls on my floor.
Let me just start off, I’ve never been to a more fun holiday and we only did the abridged version. While the lessons taught weren’t necessarily fun, the traditions surrounding them and the feeling of unity it created was overwhelming. In total there were maybe ten of us, with two “Jewish moms” leading the seder, explaining traditions, teaching us songs, and reminiscing in how it’s all done back home. I thought it was so funny when my friends would comment about how some tradition was so boring to sit through as a kid, similar to how I think of different traditions my family and I did. I couldn’t understand how this new experience for me could be seen as boring. I had no idea what Passover even was until I was seated at the table, but by the end of the night I was having so much fun that I was upset I’d never known about it before.
I’m not saying that I’m wishing I was Jewish or that I didn’t have the traditions that my family has, but the cultural exchange of it all was so wonderful and welcoming, I wish I had more opportunities to do things like that. It’s a fantastic learning experience, and allows for a whole new level of appreciation. I have to admit that I didn’t expect the cultural experiences that I would have to be one’s like this, but I am so glad to have had the experience.
On Tuesday, I’m going to hide easter eggs around the floor so that the girl who invited me can have an Easter experience. It’s not out of feeling like I need to repay her, but after having a conversation with her about easter baskets and what my mom was sending me from back home, I felt like it might be nice to welcome her to some of my traditions too. We talked about it, and planned the event, and honestly I’m so excited. Every trip to the kitchen or walk down the hall I’m planning where I can hide little chocolate eggs.
Never did I think that studying in Amsterdam was going to lead me to Passover seder, nor did I think the experience would be quite as pivotal as it was. Appreciating culture is necessary in order to understand people, to make connections and friendships and to ultimately understand the world better. I learned so much about a culture I had previously been rather alienated from, and being welcomed into new traditions with people I could trust only made me more curious and enthusiastic to continue learning. I am so thankful for each of these experiences that I’ve had. Each time that someone welcomes me into their viewpoint, I am not only learning something new, but I’m learning something personal about someone, I’m getting to understand them better. I hope that I am able to continue in both participating and facilitating these types of experiences in the future. I’m thankful that I got to learn about a holiday that I previously barely knew existed, and excited to share some of my traditions with someone as well.
I am in love with this experience. I never want these kinds of moments to end.
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Charlie (Charles) McDowell
<p>I am a 20 year old Psychology and Intercultural Studies major escaping the suburbs of Chicago in search of an adventure. I can be found reading or writing most of the time, and love to talk to people. I've been daydreaming of traveling the world since I was a child, and am so excited that the time for that is finally here! Thank you for stopping by, I hope my stories are as helpful to you as these moments were for me.</p>