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  • Rebecca's Avatar
    Head of Community
    Held every year on 21 May, World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development offers an opportunity to highlight the richness of the world’s cultures - whilst playing an essential role in achieving peace and sustainable development through intercultural dialogue.

    To celebrate World Culture Day at Utilita, we spoke to a few members of staff to learn more about their heritage and what it means to them – as the more we learn, the better understanding we have of the world and everyone in it!

    Where does your family originate from?

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    Yesmin Tilley (Financial Controller): Turkey.

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    Angela Chung (Business Change Analyst): My Dad was from Hong Kong and my Mum is from Vietnam.

    Did you have any family traditions growing up?

    Nichola: Sunday Dinner! The WHOLE Family piled around Granma and Grandads house.

    Romina: I remember the ‘Carnaval’ holidays being very fun. As a kid, we would either dress up for a parade, or go to the seaside and play with water balloons! During Easter, on Good Friday, we would not eat meat for the day, and would also go to Church as a family.

    Angela: My family are quite superstitious and religious (Buddhist), so there are a lot of rules and symbolism that we have to do. For example, Chinese New Year is associated with several myths, so we’ll wear red clothes (it must be a new set) and display red paper with well wishes to scare away the mythical beast Nian – who shows up every Lunar New Year’s Eve to eat people and livestock.

    Are there any specific types of food that are cooked for special occasions in your culture?

    Nichola: Yes, for every single occasion. Saltfish fritters, fried dumpling, fried chicken, fried fish, curried mutton and rice and/or coleslaw!!!

    Romina: For Christmas we cook ‘Hallacas’. These are a mixture of meat stew, topped with vegetables, all stuffed into a corn dough, and then neatly wrapped in banana leaves. As we usually aim to make between 30-50 of these, it can take 2 days to make. The best part of it is coming together as a family and everyone having a job to do, as well as listening to music and having fun.

    Yesmin: Baklava was a “must” at every Ramadan - my mum still bakes it now.

    Angela: We usually eat lots of food that has symbolism during the Chinese New Year and will avoid certain food on New Year’s Day. There are 7 lucky foods to eat during New Year, these include fish (to increase prosperity), spring rolls (for wealth), good fortune fruit (for fullness and wealth) and longevity noodles (for happiness and longevity).

    What is the most important or most celebrated holiday of your culture?

    Nichola: Easter and Christmas.

    Romina: I would say Christmas eve (‘Noche Buena’). We would go to mass, then eat our Hallacas along with other traditional food. Our house would be fully decorated – particularly with a big, beautiful nativity scene. And after the big family gathering, children would wake up on Christmas morning to gifts under the tree, brought by Baby Jesus (Niño Jesus).

    Yesmin: Ramadan, National Children’s Day and National Youth Day.

    Tell us about an important holiday celebrated in your culture…

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    Romina: A Quinceañera is a very popular tradition in Venezuela to celebrate a girl's 15th birthday – similar to a sweet sixteen party in American culture. Usually there is a huge party, with plenty of dancing and food. The quinceañera has a first dance is with her father, usually to a song of the father's choosing which has a certain significance to them.

    Tell us one thing that we might not know about your culture…
    Nichola: That these two small Caribbean islands formed one country and the culture of St. Kitts and Nevis has grown mainly out of West African traditions due to the slave population brought in during the colonial period. While French and British colonists settled on the islands, bringing indentured Irish servants also, English remains the countries official language - in addition to English-based Creole that some islanders speak.

    Romina: Children in Venezuela (sometimes even adults!), would have a pinata on their birthdays – every single year! We would visit the pinata store and choose one from the several options, depending on the theme you were going for – or ask for a bespoke one to be made! Then you would choose all the toys and sweets you want to place inside of them.

    Yesmin: Although our background is Islam, it doesn’t mean that women must be conservative and cover up – my family believe that belief is in the heart, so how you look on the outside is not important (although conservative believers don’t agree with that).

    Thank you for joining us to learn more about some of the cultures within Utilita!

    If you’d like to learn more or to get involved with our celebrations, pop down to any of our Energy Hubs on Saturday 21 May for a fun-filled day with dancers, food and more.

    Last edited by Rebecca; 20-05-22 at 11:27.
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