This I Believe

Elena - Webster, New York
Entered on March 1, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: immigrant

As the only native born U.S. citizen in my family, I was traveling in my mother’s stomach as a tiny fetus from Macedonia to America.

I believe in cherishing our culture. Throughout my entire life, my family has been strongly connected and bonded to one another through our Macedonian heritage. I believe that I have been truly gifted. Not many people are able to say that they can speak and understand two different cultures and I think that’s what makes me…me today. Since Macedonian holidays differ from American holidays, we experience celebrate both, usually on separate days. My parents feel that giving my sister and me the opportunity to enjoy a more enhanced holiday season, due to additional traditions and celebrations shared with them by those of other cultures, is something incredible.

One holiday I can recall that is different from the American holidays is our Macedonian Christmas which is celebrated on January 7th. Our Christmas celebration begins on January 5th, the evening, known as “Kolede.” My first memory of Christmas, in Macedonia, was when I was three years old. My sister and I once went from door to door singing Christmas carols the top of our lungs and receiving fruits, nuts and sweets from people in return. Later that evening, we engaged in a conversation about the past year, and about the year to come. A traditional oak log is brought to the family’s hearth. Carrying a bundle of straws into my house, my mother led us around the room to spread them on the floor. My mother decorated the house with oak branches with their leaves on, representing the wish of the family for long and healthy life, “with health strong as oak, and with a life long as that of the oak.” which is one of our Macedonian beliefs. The smell in the house had faded from the appetizing scent to a fresh forest like fragrance.

The “fasting supper” (that I absolutely love) is composed of strict vegetarian recipes, such as cooked vegetables, nuts, bread, also known as pita, and dried fruits. In the bread, a coin is put inside before it is baked and whoever gets the coin in his/her piece of pita will have a particularly successful year to look forward to. I won three years in a row, which is very exciting. We attended the first morning church service the following day. After my family returned from church, the guests arrive at our house. What I, along with everyone else, exchanged in words is Christ is born: “Hristos se rodi.” In reply, Indeed, he is born: “Vistina Se Rodi”. The Christmas dinner usually consists of roast suckling pig (Which at the age of three I found very disturbing and non-appetizing and still haven’t grown to eat it) and other festive dishes.

Even if it means that my family has to modify our traditions, we are still able to keep them going. Ever since my time as a young three year old, I have visited Macedonian four more times. I’m dedicated to the fact that I get to spread and maintain beliefs between friends and family, even if that means missing a night out with my American born girlfriends. While our traditional American holidays are celebrated, we also celebrate many holidays from our Macedonian culture as well as many more holidays that do not even exist in the United States. Some holidays include Easter, our name day (if we were named after a saint, which I certainly am), the old new years and several more. Since my family’s religious beliefs were practiced and still kept within us in the U.S., we have continued to preserve a special relationship that kept us close together. I believe in treasuring traditions.