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Holiday Travel Takes Students Far, Wide
Kaitie Kemper
Staff Writer

With holiday break quickly approaching on Dec. 13, many Manchester University students are anxiously awaiting their journeys home. While some are traveling by automobile to their Indiana residences, others are flying overseas to enjoy a few weeks of relaxation from rigorous coursework. However, one common thread ties a multitude of MU students’ holiday plans together:  family.

Manchester University junior Jeries Khayyat is flying home to Ramallah, Palestine, to kick off his holiday break. His family is having their first reunion in three years. Before he gets to Ramallah, he will gather for a “pre-union” with older relatives and cousins in Amman, Jordan.  Then he will cross the border into Palestine for a night before venturing to Bethlehem to visit more extended family in order to join them in mourning his late aunt. 

Christmas Eve is a big to-do for the Khayyat family. “On Christmas Eve, we all meet at my house [in Ramallah],” he said. “We have the Christmas tree set up, we put the presents there, and then my mom cooks the main dish and salads, and everyone brings whatever they cook. Then we listen to music, we dance to the Tarab—which is traditional Middle Eastern music—we laugh, watch movies, drink, eat, and then take pictures.”

On Christmas day, Khayyat and his family indulge in numerous feasts, and the Khayyat men go around wishing a “Merry Christmas” to friends and family. This Greek Orthodox practice can take up to four days to complete.

After celebrating the New Year, he is flying to Dubai to spend time with his immediate family. From there, the Khayyats are taking a yacht on the Gulf Sea from Dubai to his sister’s house in Abu Dhabi. Following this excursion, they are driving to a resort in the desert in Oman. They will be going out to the tents near the resort for a night filled with artistic henna drawing, belly dancers, music, singing, and bonfires.

Khayyat, who says that his Christmas gift is his plane ticket home, is excited for his vacation. “Basically this year is going to be family getting reconnected and having a good time together,” he said.

Senior Laura Lichauer is flying to England for three weeks to see her mother after spending five years apart. “We’re going to go to London, Bath, and Cardiff,” she said. “‘Harry Potter’ opened up all their sets for touring so we have to get to that. We’re also going to go to the Dr. Who Museum, and we’re thinking about traveling up to Liverpool.” Lichauer, who hasn’t seen her mom’s side of the family in England for thirteen years, says that they are doing a lot of family reunion activities as well.

Sophomore Paula Rodriguez is flying home to Quito, Ecuador. “We have dinner on Christmas Eve,” she said. “We have turkey, and we’ll just have a big gathering:  all the family, cousins, everyone. For New Year’s Eve we have a dinner, and then Jan. 1 usually people go party.”

Rodriguez explains a traditional Christmas in Ecuador. “Most of our people are Catholic, and they pray an everyday prayer nine days before Christmas,” she said. “What they do is pray every day and thank God until Christmas. We have the Christmas tree and then you have a figure of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the three kings, and that’s where you pray. That’s a religious thing, and it’s also very traditional.”

First-year student Guy Webb is driving home to Greenwood, Indiana before hopping a plane to the Sunshine State. “I plan on relaxing at my house, and then going down to Florida to see my grandmother for a week or two,” he said.

Fellow first-year student Katie Skeen is driving home to Anderson, Indiana for the holidays. “We make gingerbread houses every year,” she said. “We make cookies and we deliver them to the high school and local relatives, and we shop until we drop. We also watch National Lampoon over and over.”

Skeen doesn’t hesitate to mention her favorite part about her vacation. “It’s just being around family,” she said.

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