Why are traditions important?  This question came to mind during our All-School Thanksgiving Assembly last week.  Traditions are significant  because they are comforting, recognizable events that happen year after year.  They help bring our families and communities together as they are passed down from one group to another.

The Academy’s All-School Thanksgiving Assembly is a great example of this.  Our students and faculty from all divisions gather in Louis Lehrman Gymnasium on the day before our Thanksgiving break.  We know to expect Dr. Newman’s reading of a fun children’s book, joyful holiday music provided by our own talented students, and some form of entertaining competition between our Middle and Upper School student representatives.

This year we added something new to our holiday assembly.  Two of our international students, Lanie Jung ’15 from South Korea and Andras Szep ’15 from Hungary, spoke of a couple of traditions from their respective countries.  Since we don’t always celebrate the same holidays, as is the case with Thanksgiving, it’s interesting to learn of customs from other countries.  Lanie spoke of the Lunar New Year celebrated in South Korea, when everyone participates in several days of festivities with family members, at the end of which everyone turns one year older.  Andras spoke of the Hungarian tradition of celebrating your “nameday,” a celebratory day assigned to you according to your given name.  Mention of these customs brought me to think about traditions in my native country of Colombia.

In Colombia, our holiday traditions are blend of pagan and Christian traditions.  Pagan tribes recognized the end of the harvest period with celebrations for nine evenings involving song, dance, and special foods. When Spanish priests Christianized the natives, they used this familiar tradition to introduce the commemoration of the birth of Jesus.  Colombians begin their holiday tradition on Dec. 7 with the lighting of luminary candles and then follow up with nightly celebrations starting on Dec. 16.  The custom is the reading of the Novena, which involves the reading of a prayer that tells a story.  Relatives gather in a different house each of the nine nights. Usually the family elder leads the reading. In our family that was my grandmother. Each night’s reading lasts about an hour. It includes singing “Villancicos” (carols) and, of course, food, plenty of special breads and dishes like Ajiaco soup, tamales, empanadas, and buñuelos (a type of fried dough).  These customs bring back fond memories of family and of my Colombian heritage.

Anywhere you live, or in this case, go to school, traditions are important.  I am proud to be a part of the Academy traditions we celebrate together.