Halloween-like Traditions Around the World

October 30, 2017

Pumpkins on display (Photo from Wikipedia)

It’s that time of year.  The air is crisp, leaves are falling and the days are getting longer.  Soon kids (and all the kids-at-heart) will dress up and the air will be filled with shouts of “trick-or-treat!”  Still others will stay indoors watching scary movies, pretending not to be scared of the dark.  Yep, it’s Halloween.  But do many of you know how Halloween began?  While there are many influences on the modern celebration of Halloween, most agree that the basis for the holiday is a blend of Celtic and Christian traditions.  The practice of jack-o-lanterns comes from the Celts, as they would carve turnips into lanterns to help guide departed spirits.  Trick-or-treating began as Christian children would go door to door collecting bread in exchange for prayers for loved ones.  After looking into the history of Halloween, I wondered if other cultures had similar celebrations, so I asked my co-workers to tell me about some of their homeland traditions.

Hailing from Croatia, Lilly Jasarovic told me that recently more Croatians are celebrating the modern Halloween with costumes and trick or treating.  But she also told me of the festival Maškare which is celebrated right before Lent.  During this festival, people dress up in costumes and celebrate with big masquerade parties, parades and bonfires.


Bowl of Fritule, photo from wikipedia

Children are often given small doughnut-like pastries called fritule, as gifts by adults.

In Ethiopia, they celebrate the festival of Buhé (pronounced boo-hay).  Ahmed Abogn let me know that Buhe, sometimes refered to as Ethiopia’s Halloween, is celebrated in August near the end of the rainy season.  On the night of Buhe, young boys will go door to door singing and dancing, asking for small gifts, like bread or (nowadays) money.  Families will also light bonfires and gather around to celebrate.

Kaylan Dahal, a Bhutanese-Nepali caseworker, spoke about the traditions of Diwali.  The festival is a Hindu festival, also known as the Festival of Lights.  During this time families decorate their homes with flowers and it is a time to share food and blessings with each other.  During the festival, groups will go door to door singing songs or blessings and are rewarded with small gifts.  Kaylan tells me that in the refugee camp, you could visit nearly 100 homes because they were so close together.


A Nepalese temple lit up for Diwali. (Photo by Dhilung Kirat)

Caseworker Law Reh spoke of the Karenni Deeku festival.  Named for the leaf-wrapped sticky rice that is cooked during this time, the festival is held with large group dances around sacred poles.  Sometimes people will wear masks during the celebrations.  They will also go door to door sharing gifts with one another.  Families will also make sculptures (Law described them similar to scarecrows) that will be placed in front of homes to protect from evil spirits.  This festival can take a week to celebrate and is a time to look forward into the next year as fortunes can also be told during this time.

Learning about all the different ways and reasons my coworkers celebrate was really great!  I got to hear about their homes and traditions as well as share some tidbits about Halloween too.  If this kind of history interested you, I hope you can take some time to learn more about the different traditions in the world because, as this blog showed me, despite the many differences, we are more similar than we sometimes think.


Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans

YOU can help kids overcome their fears

October 26, 2017

In the spirit of Halloween, we are going to talk a little bit about fears. At LSS Mentoring, we know that kids have a lot of fears. Below are just a few examples of fears mentors have seen in (and ultimately helped the student make a change for the positive) their students.

Social Fears. Imagine going to a new school and not knowing anyone. Or you’re in middle school and do not have any friends to sit with at lunch because you are too afraid to talk to anyone. Mentors can help encourage students to break out of their shell and find students at their school with similar interest. It may take awhile, but that student will get a lot of conversational practice with their mentor that will help them develop friendships with their peers, and ultimately, their teachers, job supervisors, college professors and beyond.

Academic Fears. In New Mentor Training, we teach new volunteers how to encourage their student to have a growth mindset. The most important word a mentor can reinforce to their student is YET. If a student says, “I have not passed a math test this year. What’s the point?,” a mentor has the perfect opportunity to let the student know they have not passed one YET. Then, they can help problem solve by talking about what the student has tried to prepare and what they could try next. Sharing other approaches and other perspectives is so important for students growth.

Fear of the Future. Kids who have a mentor may not be excited about their future. They may be worried about their family not having enough money to send them to college or worried about leaving their home. Believe it or not, mentoring is FUN! Mentors are encouraged to talk about the future, but we also want the time shared to be fun for both students and volunteers. Just taking time to play a board game or draw on a write board or share a meal can allow everyone to take a break and enjoy the moment. Mentors can also share that they were afraid at that point in their lives and what they did to keep that fear under control. Having someone acknowledge the fear and let the student know they are not alone can go a long way.

So, what are you afraid of? Don’t let your fear stand in the way of making a child a little less fearful.

Post by Michelle Madsen


Fear of What-Ifs

October 25, 2017

When I speak in the community as a presenter, I often hear from individuals that they have always been interested in volunteering with refugees and immigrants but were too scared to get involved.  They each had different fears that stopped them:  some were worried about the language barrier and not being able to communicate; some were nervous about making a cultural faux pas and offending someone; some were concerned about finding common ground and finding interesting activities; some were anxious about being unqualified to be a teacher and help in a classroom.  All of these fears stopped them from pursing a passion of theirs.  They focused on the “what-ifs” and missed out meeting new people and new experiences.


Maybe you’re feeling this way too.  You’ve seen stories on social media and thought, “I should get involved.”  But the fearsome “what-ifs” always creep up and stops you. My advice to you and anyone is to turn those frightening “what-ifs” into positive “what-ifs”.  Instead of thinking “what if we can’t communicate”; try thinking “what if I make a new friend?”  What if I learn a new recipe? What if I discover a hidden talent?  What if I help a 72-year-old grandmother of 6 learn to write for the first time?  What if I share a holiday with a new refugee family, who are separated from family by thousands of miles?  There are so many positives that happen when you move past the fear.  Volunteering can change lives, including your own.  And you know what?  It’s ok to feel nervous and to have those fears.  Everyone has those fears.  Even refugees have those fears.  They worry that they will not understand or be understood.  They worry about not knowing about the culture here in Sioux Falls and doing something incorrectly.  Underneath it all, we’re all the same.  Just don’t let those fears stop you.  Because you might end up missing out on meeting a best friend.

If you are interesting in overcoming your fear of volunteering, contact Kristyne Duffy at Kristyne.Duffy@LssSD.org or call 605-731-2009 to find out about volunteer opportunities.


Written by:  Kristyne Duffy, Volunteer Coordinator, Center for New Americans

CFR Student Loan Boot Camp

October 25, 2017

The Center for Financial Resources’ “Student Loan Boot Camp” class helps borrowers take control of their student loans.  A one-hour class, you can attend in-person over your lunch hour or by video conference wherever you happen to be.  The session covers locating loans, understanding loan types, payment plan options, loan consolidation and more!  Student Loan Boot Camp is offered the third Wednesday of each month.  You can register via the calendar link at http://www.LssSD.org or by calling 888-258-2227.


Closer Connections Conference to be held in Sioux Falls November 8 & 9

October 18, 2017


This coming month Lutheran Services of South Dakota and Dakota TESL will be hosting the 2017 Closer Connections Conference, Pioneering New PATHS:  Promoting Acquisition to Heighten Success.

The Closer Connections Conference includes:

  • Best practices for teaching English Language Learners at all ages and levels of proficiency
  • Cultural panels
  • Breakout sessions on refugee resettlement and immigration
  • Networking opportunities

I was able to talk to Dakota TESL President-elect, Diana Streleck, who said, “The Closer Connection Conference provides teachers and community members a venue in which to discuss and learn about the educational needs and cultural backgrounds of the English Language Learner in our communities.”

Thanks in part to the South Dakota Humanities Council, the one of the keynote speakers of the conference will be, Dr. Amer Ahmed, a prominent national speaker and intercultural diversity consultant, who will deliver a keynote address and discussion session, “Addressing Islamophobia: Dispelling Myths to Break Down Barriers.”


Amer F. Ahmed, Ed. D., is an individual with an eclectic personal and professional background. As an intercultural diversity consultant, college administrator, facilitator, poet and Hip Hop activist, he channels his diverse experiences towards effectively changing how we interact with the world around us.  Born in Springfield, Ohio, to Indian Muslim immigrants, Amer has dedicated his life to engaging and facilitating diversity across human difference. Powerful study abroad experiences in South Africa and Nepal have been enhanced by his deep interest in anthropology and Black Studies. His Indian-Muslim-American upbringing, together with his education and international experiences form the basis of his message to his audiences—respect and dignity for all people.

The second keynote speaker will be, Dr. John Schmidt, an educator, trainer, program developer and administrator with extensive international experience will present a keynote address and break-out session reflecting on “At Home in the World: Building Language Skills to House ESL Acquisition.”


The great-grandson of Norwegian immigrants to Wisconsin, John was raised in the Upper Midwest. In sixth grade he was introduced to a second language, Spanish, by his teacher from Cuba. This encounter was the beginning of his world travels which led him to studying and working in Spain as well as training teachers and developing programs for a variety of educational entities on all five continents.  He currently teaches ESL for the Texas Intensive English Program (TIEP) in Austin, Texas. In addition, he has volunteered his time and expertise in various capacities with TESOL International and Toastmasters International. He has co-authored several ESL textbooks addressing teaching, grammar and English for Specific Purposes.

The Closer Connections Conference gives the local community the opportunity to learn about refugees and immigrants from different countries, listen to international speakers, and engage in interactive sessions to understand diversity in our community.

If you would like to register for the conference, please visit the Dakota TESL website:  http://dakotatesl.com/ for more information.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor and Dakota TESL Secretary


Why Not You?

October 16, 2017

Are you interested in adoption or foster care? November is recognized as National Adoption Month, and local agencies are sponsoring an Adoption and Foster Care Awareness event on November 2, 2017, at the Rapid City Dahl Arts Center, located at 713 7th Street, Rapid City, South Dakota. Read the rest of this entry »

Human Trafficking Presentation

October 9, 2017

South Dakota ranks 6th in the country for the number of victims of human trafficking. According to the Department of Homeland Security, human trafficking is: modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked in countries around the world, including the United States.

Victims are most often young adults who are looking for a new start or a way out of their current situation. Those looking for victims make promises that fulfill these wishes, and before they know it, they are being moved away from home and into a cycle that is hard to break. The best way we can prevent trafficking is by educating ourselves. Mentors should be aware at the very least and in some cases, ready to discuss trafficking with your student who may be at risk of being a victim.

Anyone who is interested in the prevention of human trafficking is invited to attend our October support training. We will be joined by The New Colossus, a local nonprofit dedicated to prevention efforts. Please join us from 12-1 PM on October 24 at LSS, 705 E 41st Street. Parking and the entrance is in the rear of the building. Please go past the stairs and into the Center for Financial Resource and Counseling Services area to get to the conference room. RSVP by calling 221-2403 or emailing Mentoring@LssSD.org.

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