Nationality Rooms Open House showcases holiday traditions and culture

A video presentation on the history of “La Befana” from the Italian Hall committee is just one of the many virtual exhibitions of cultural dances, holiday recipes, crafts and winter traditions from the 33 committees. of the nationality room this week. 30th annual Open Day.

The committee of the Italian room, chaired by Lina Insana, chose to represent their culture through a reading of the poem by Gianni Rodari “Voglio fare un regalo alla Befana”, which translates as “I would like to offer a gift to La Befana” . Insana told the story of “La Béfana” is important for the Italian celebration of Epiphany, a feast of January 6 that commemorates the end of the Christmas period and the presentation of the baby Jesus to the three wise men.

“This year we have focused on the figure of” La Befana “, the old woman who gives gifts to Italian children on Epiphany… because one of the most popular decorations in the Italian room is a” Befana “figurine “in cloth,” Insana, an Italian teacher, said.

The themes of this year’s event are winter holiday traditions, cultural performances, traditional holiday crafts, ornamentation and winter and holiday recipes.. A series of video presentations and tours for the week-long Open Day are available Sunday through Saturday on the Nationality Halls and Intercultural Exchange Programs website.

The open day will end with the Greek Christmas Trivia Weekend Event this weekend, during which participants can purchase tickets to test their knowledge of Greek culture and compete for traditional Greek olive oil.

Other room committees are also participating in this year’s events and activities, including a video presentation on Yugoslav holiday traditions, a cooking video on Kugelis – a traditional Lithuanian potato dish – and several other educational videos and cultural. Kati Csoman, director of Nationality chambers and intercultural exchange programs, said the open day will also include dance and music performances from the cultures of Armenia, India, Japan, Scotland, Switzerland and Syria-Lebanon.

The holiday open house traditionally takes place on the first Sunday in December and is known to have attracted more than 3,000 visitors, according to Csoman. Due to the security measures related to COVID-19 and the current operational status of the University, the event is virtual this year, as it was the case last year. Csoman said the virtual aspect has some limitations to the event experience in that people won’t be able to be in the physical venues and be with others.

“Of course, everyone longs for the opportunity to come together in person in a space as inspiring as the Cathedral of Learning and see the rooms decorated for the season,” Csoman said. “We also miss the music and the sound of laughter and joy when people make new friends and visit old acquaintances. I know many of us – especially me – miss the delicious food and baked goods representing many different cultures. “

In addition to video presentations by the various committees, the open day will also include virtual tours by Quo Vadis, the Nationality Room student tour guides.

According to Zach Hartman, president of Quo Vadis, Quo Vadis, one of the oldest clubs on campus, aims to promote cultural understanding through its tours of the Nationality Room.

Hartman, a graduate in Computer Engineering and Classical Civilizations, said the club spent a lot of time last fall preparing for the video tours in such a way as to present the venues in the best possible way, while also highlighting the cultural traditions of each nationality. .

“Quo Vadis has video presentations in every room available that anyone can watch because it’s an open house and we filmed them last fall,” Hartman said. “It was really exciting actually because it’s like a new take on touring that we’ve never done before.”

Hartman said that while there are limits to the virtual event, one of the benefits is that people all over the world can watch the video tours and presentations, including people who live in theaters countries. represented.

Along with the video tours, Pitt’s office of special events invited Quo Vadis to feature virtual book readings where they read their favorite childhood vacation stories, according to Hartman.

Csoman said she is encouraging families to participate in the virtual book reading series as they showcase the “winter’s diverse offerings.”

“Stories about Abuelas and tamales, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, winter solstice and silly snowmen, and of course, St. Nick,” Csoman said. “Each story is read by a different member of the University of Pittsburgh and the videos are hosted on our YouTube Channel: Kids Club Story Time.

Hartman said he hopes events like the Open House will specifically allow Pitt students to better appreciate the nationality rooms and better understand the cultures the rooms aim to represent. Students and others in Oakland can attend in person holiday season tours given by Quo Vadis until December 15th.

“I think the Nationality Rooms are underrated,” Hartman said. “These are really special spaces that we say are museum quality, and they really are, because they contain so much artifacts and you can learn so much about the world without ever leaving a single building.”

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