The Heart-Shaped Holiday

February 12, 2018


Everyone is seeing red. Valentine’s Day is here. The day for lovers, for family, for friends, for co-workers – the official day when we show the important people in our lives how much they mean to us. The day is celebrated with cards, flowers and chocolates – and lots of them. Many of us grew up with the annual tradition of Valentine’s Day, we remember our parents and grandparents reminiscing about it.


But how long has this special day actually been around? The answer is quite simple: Forever. The beginnings of this romantic day are anything but romantic – they are rather mysterious. Christian and Pagan rituals evolved into the way Valentine’s Day is celebrated today.
Many legends surround the saint named Valentine. One story tells about Valentine, a Roman priest, who secretly married young lovers until he was found out and thrown into prison. There, he fell in love with a young woman who visited him on a regular basis. Shortly before his death he penned her a letter and signed it ‘from your Valentine,’ a phrase that is still associated with this special day. All the tales that speak of the beginnings of this tradition center around a romantic hero named Valentine.
The British Library in London has the oldest Valentine’s card on display – written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was held in the Tower of London. Americans started designing their own hand-made cards, beautifully decorated with ribbons and lace, as far back as 1700. In 1840 these cards were replaced by the first printed, mass-produced cards. About 150 million Valentine’s Day cards exchange hands every year, only the number of Christmas cards is higher; 85% are bought by women.
Many countries around the world celebrate the day with their own traditions. Denmark sees the exchange of pressed, white flowers called snowdrops. France, with a reputation for romance, had a rather unusual tradition. On February 14, men and women would fill up houses on opposite sides of a street. Then they would call out to each other and pair off that way. The women who were left behind later gathered for a huge bonfire where they burned pictures of the men who stood them up and insulted them greatly. Over the years, this event got so out of hand that the French government banned it altogether. In China women prepare elaborate offerings of fruit to Zhinu, a heavenly king’s daughter, in hopes of attracting a worthy husband.
How are you celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor


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

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: for more information.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor and Dakota TESL Secretary


A Success Story

July 10, 2017


I first met Nadifa six years ago – a bright-eyed, inquisitive young girl. And today, with this blog, I am proud to introduce to you a still bright-eyed, inquisitive young lady: Nadifa, US citizen.

Born in the North African nation of Chad, Nadifa spent most of her life in Cameroon before coming to Sioux Falls with her parents, three brothers, three sisters and her grandmother. Nadifa was full of questions, she wanted to know everything, she wanted to learn everything she didn’t have the opportunity to learn back in Africa. Soon, her school enrolled her and her brother in a tutoring program to help with English and other subjects taught in American schools. I became their tutor. Nadifa’s brain was like a sponge, asking for more and more and more.

From the moment she set foot on American soil Nadifa was happy. Why? I asked her. Because, she said, everything is readily available here, we don’t have to walk for a long, long time just to pick up the bare necessities. And my whole family, we can all be together. And after 6 1/2 years in Sioux Falls, Nadifa is still happy. She values the educational opportunities available to her, as a woman, here in Sioux Falls. She graduated from high school and is continuing her education. She is studying sociology at USD, hoping to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2020 and at the same time is working full-time as a food ambassador at Avera. She is proud of her independence – she has her own apartment, her own car and her own money – yet stays close to her family. Family, she says, is so very important, they are the best support system, they will always stick together.

After graduation, Nadifa hopes to find a job where she can help people – refugees, immigrants, actually anybody and everybody. She likes to keep busy. So, besides school and work, she volunteers at CNA as a classroom tutor, helping immigrants learn English, the first step to becoming a citizen. Was it important for her to become a citizen? Yes, definitely. I like living in the US, she says, and I feel much safer being a citizen. Going to high school here and learning about history and government helped her with preparing for the naturalization test.

And how is life different for young ladies here in the United States? She thinks that some of them take advantage of the freedom they have here. They are easily influenced by their peers and the local environment and they lose sight of their dreams and goals. She says she was raised to cover up – to cover her head and to cover her body with appropriate clothing. And she still dresses that way. In high school, she says, she was often teased by her peers, “Why don’t you upgrade to America?” But Nadifa didn’t feel the need to do that. She says, it’s important to feel comfortable with yourself, to always be yourself and do the right thing for yourself. And to never forget the value of family.

Always encourage – never criticize

Work hard and never stop dreaming


Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor

Citizenship With a View

June 30, 2017





For more than ten years U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Park Service have partnered to welcome New Americans. Every year dozens of naturalization ceremonies take place in the midst of the scenic landscapes and majestic views of the country’s national parks. And South Dakota is no exception. The ceremonies at the Mount Rushmore National Monument have grown in size, from 60 new citizens in 2007 to 180 in 2017. However, depending on where in the state you live, getting to the ceremony isn’t always that easy. Often money and transportation are major issues. But this year citizenship candidates from Sioux Falls had a smooth ride. Lutheran Social Services’ Center for New Americans was able to charter a bus, made possible through a generous donation from the Daughters of the American Revolution, Mary Chilton Chapter, Sioux Falls. So, on June 15, at 3:15 AM a bus full of tired but excited citizenship candidates with family, friends and CNA staff, including myself, set out across the state to Mount Rushmore. It seemed like a quick ride. The weather was fully cooperating – sunny skies, just a little breeze. The area was bustling with activity. It felt like a mini United Nations. People from over 40 different countries were coming together in this breathtaking scenery under the ‘faces’ in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The sat down on the stone benches of the Amphi Theatre as Green Card holders – and they stood up as new citizens of the United States. They walked across the stage and told us their name, what country they came from and how incredibly proud they were to now be citizens of the United States. And we got on the bus again to start the journey home, again a bus full of tired but excited people. Only now we have a group of New American citizens in our midst.


Written by Silke Hansen, ESL Instructor


Time for a Change

April 7, 2017

Spring is in the air! This morning I saw a bird singing on the parking ramp railing, and I even dared to wear sandals and capris this week.  Everywhere I look there is green grass poking up and any trace of snow has disappeared.  It’s certainly a time for renewing and growing.

Boxes, chairs, and tables ready for the big move to East Bank


With that being said, LSS Center for New Americans has been very busy this week packing for our move to the Campus on East Bank. After waiting, talking, touring, and waiting some more, it seems surreal to be packing up everything and moving into our new building.  Teachers and students alike are excited about the move.  For months students have been asking about the new building, and are so very eager to start this new chapter in their lives. Many students are happy about the little things (or maybe they are the big things) that will come with the new building such as a parking lot and a nearby bus stop.  Teachers are excited to have permanent classrooms and a place to call “ours.”


It is of course bittersweet to be leaving the building we have occupied for the past three years. I found I was a little teary eyed on Tuesday as we held our last classes in the “old school.”  However, my students were very happy to hear that the tables, the chairs, and (most importantly) the teachers, would be moving to the new school and would be greeting them when English class starts again.

Boxes and boxes all ready to go


Stacks of packed boxes and empty rooms greet us now, but soon we will be unpacking again and setting up new classrooms. It is time for our new journey to begin.  So this week, we are dreaming of the changes about to come…new building, new classrooms, new experiences…and it feels quite appropriate that spring is here now.

Posted by Heather Glidewell, ESL Instructor

Please Join Us for the 22nd Annual Taste of Cultures Dinner and Silent Auction Event!

January 17, 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017  6:30 pm

The District, Sioux Falls


Celebrate the diversity of our community with your support of LSS in raising funds to assist newcomers to resettle. Proceeds help to purchase groceries, assist with rent, purchase furniture, buy bus passes and purchase winter clothing for refugee families new to the country.

6:30 pm Dinner
– Enjoy Food from Around the World
– Wine, Bourbon & Whiskey Tasting
– Silent Auction

7:30 pm > Entertainment
– Live Music
– Cultural Dancing

Stay and enjoy the evening with music, friends and family

Ticket Options
General Admission Tickets > $40
General Admission Table of Eight > $300
VIP Tickets > $80 **Limited Quantity Available**
VIP Table of Eight > $640 **Limited Quantity Available**
– VIP tickets include premium seating, wine, bourbon & whiskey tasting

Limited seating, reserve seats early.

Tickets are available online. For ticket information call Kristyne Walth, Volunteer Coordinator, LSS Center for New Americans at 605-731-2009.

A pledge or contribution to support LSS services in the area will be requested.

If you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation; text TOC17 to 41444.  Your gift is greatly appreciated.




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