The Melting Pot

By Mirjana Hutnik – 9th Grade, Peters Township High School

I think that cultural and ethnic values and understandings are very important. My family very strongly believes in preserving our culture and heritage. We do things differently than most people due to our ethnic roots and traditions. Most people think it’s strange and unusual but to us it is normal because of what we were taught and believe. Others do not need to believe in it or understand it, they just need to respect it.

In my Serbian culture one of the most unusual things practiced is Christmas. In our culture Christmas is not held on December 25, Christmas is celebrated on January 7. The Serbs religion is Eastern Orthodoxy and we follow a different church calendar than other branches of Christianity. The celebration starts on Christmas eve, January 6, where a ceremonial tree is blessed and then paraded from the site to the church for a short service. This service includes the marines firing off blanks into the sky, memorial candles lit for those who have passed on, and some very intense sled races by the children. On January 7, the morning starts the same as most, with presents under the tree from Santa Claus. After opening the gifts, an unbearably long church service takes place. The best part of the day, in my opinion, is when the whole family goes to my grandparents house for the feast. Before anyone can eat, what some believe are very strange customs, our tradition takes place. The oldest man, my grandfather, sits at the head of the table and proposes a toast with a fine glass of wine. He then takes a sip and passes it around for everyone to take a sip, including the kids. Once the glass gets back to him he pours some on the candles standing up in the bread, then throws the rest of the wine on to the ceiling, wishing for a healthy year. My grandparents dining room ceiling has at least thirty years of wine stains on it from this. Even though it is incredibly messy it is always fun to do. My grandmother, however, prefers the tradition that’s done with the bread she makes.  She bakes a coin into a special bread. The bread must be broken, not cut, and whoever finds the coin is granted a year of good luck. It is always exciting to see who will find it.

Apart from our unique holiday celebrations I think that the most impactful factor that has opened my eyes most to culture and ethnicity is thanks to my mom and grandmother. As a child, I was signed up for a Serbian tamburitzan group. A tamburitzan group is a folk dance group that practices traditional Serbian dances and music. I was in this group from first to eighth grade and loved it. I had to quit recently because I did not have time to fully commit because of school and sports, but am sad to see it go. In this group I learned so many dances and songs with the people I met there. I was even fortunate enough to learn to play a traditional Serbian instrument called the prim, which resembles the mandolin, with minor differences. I loved being able to learn about my culture while still having fun.

I think that becoming involved in one’s culture is the best way to learn about it while still being able to have a good time. It might not be conventional but thats okay because every culture has its quirks that are unlike anything anyone has ever seen or heard of. I think that’s the beauty of living in a country where diversity is encouraged. If everyone was the same there would be no opportunity to learn.

Mirjana Hutnik Mirjana Hutnik is a freshman at Peters Township High School.  She likes to play softball, travel, watch Netflix & hang out with friends.

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