The Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning Came Alive Sunday for Visitors to Experience Authentic Holiday Traditions from around the World, from Philippine Sweet Rice Biko to Lithuanian Straw Ornaments and Welsh Currant Tea Cakes [Derived Headline]

By Panizzi, Tawnya | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 3, 2018 | Go to article overview

The Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning Came Alive Sunday for Visitors to Experience Authentic Holiday Traditions from around the World, from Philippine Sweet Rice Biko to Lithuanian Straw Ornaments and Welsh Currant Tea Cakes [Derived Headline]


Panizzi, Tawnya, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning came alive Sunday for visitors to experience authentic holiday traditions from around the world, from Philippine sweet rice Biko to Lithuanian straw ornaments and Welsh currant tea cakes.

The 27th annual open house was attended by thousands who took advantage of mild weather to meander through the 30 rooms decked out in traditional holiday grandeur.

"It's important to keep these traditions alive and teach people about them," said Frances Zalesky, a Verona resident and member of the Lithuanian committee.

Zalesky's grandparents both migrated from Lithuania and educated her on the simple straw ornaments and window candles that would be used to celebrate Christmas.

"There would be a Christmas Eve dinner that would be meatless and dairy free," she said. "It would be a lot of fish and veggies."

The Nationality Rooms are on the first and third floors of the Cathedral of Learning. Each was designed to represent the culture of various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny County and are supported by individual committees. Though tours are offered year-round, the holiday open house is meant to reintroduce people to the rooms, said Maryann Sivak, assistant to the director of the Nationality Rooms.

The event featured Pitt student tour guides in each room to explain the history of the culture's holiday celebration to visitors.

Annie Hayden, a junior, talked about how Irish homes would be appointed with fresh holly and ivy and focus on the manger. German room tour guide Chiara Montenegra said Germans were the first to decorate Christmas trees and almonds are commonly used as ornaments.

Zach Hartman, the Polish room tour guide, told a touching tale of how Polish families celebrate with a big family meal but always leave an empty plate for the coming of Jesus. …

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