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Home away from home for the holidays

November 21, 2004|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, PA. - For many local residents, the VerStandig Broadcasting Greencastle Christmas Parade is an annual tradition. But for several teens riding the Peace on Earth float Saturday it was a first, as are many of the traditional celebrations they will experience this season.

Several foreign exchange students studying at local high schools for one year under the PAX, FLEX and YES programs waved the flags of their countries and gave holiday greetings in their native languages.

Jin Hee Kim, who attends Greencastle-Antrim High School, said there is a festive atmosphere in South Korea around Christmas time.

"Santa Claus comes and gives gifts to children, but we don't exchange gifts," she said. Koreans eat cookies and cakes at that time of year, she added, but there are no particular Christmas foods. She said she will try the American Christmas foods, and will help her host family decorate the Christmas tree.

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"It's my first time to decorate American style, so that's exciting," she said.

Jin said she will call her family in Korea on Christmas.

"Christmas is more like a community thing there," she said. "New Year's is more important than Christmas in Korea. This big Christmas festival is the first for me."

Jin, 17, wore a traditional Korean gown, which she wears at home for holidays, weddings and family gatherings.

Water dripped off awnings, but no heavy rain fell during the parade. The 53 units participating in the 19th annual event included a hearse, a pickup truck with a stuffed gorilla in the front and miniature race cars driven by children.

The Greencastle-Antrim Middle School band earned applause as it marched through the square. The Eader's Ice Cream float featured a moving ice cream scoop dipping peanut butter fudge ice cream.

Various royalty, including Pamela Dobrota, the Pennsylvania Draft Horse and Mule Association queen, waved to the crowd.

Laura Puckett, community coordinator cluster director for the academic exchange program PAX, said some of the exchange students from former Soviet Union countries are here on scholarships because they have been recognized as future leaders of their countries.

"About 50,000 apply for the FLEX scholarships from the State Department, and only 1,200 get them," she said.

Tanya Malik, 16, came from India to attend Greencastle-Antrim High School. Her host family lives on a farm, she said, and she will help decorate the tree.

Karine Varkazaryan said that in her native Armenia, the traditional Christmas food is tolma, which is meat and rice rolled up in grape leaves.

Karine, 15, is attending Chambersburg (Pa.) Area Senior High School.

Yelyzaveta Sokol is from the Ukraine and is attending Greencastle-Antrim. At home, her family celebrates Orthodox Christmas on Jan. 6, and serves 12 traditional Christmas dishes.

"Goddaughters and godsons visit their godparents and bring them a special dish, and the godparents give them presents," she said.

The 16-year-old speaks four languages.

"Ukrainian is my native language, and Russian is my second native because my mother is Russian," she said. "And I learned German and English in school."

Indonesian native Arlan Yuliandrie, 17, said at home, they "make a tree, and we give presents (but) not in the home. It's all done in the church."

There are no Christmas parades in Indonesia, the James Buchanan High School student said.

The students also were in two other local parades Saturday, Puckett said.

"We'll take them shopping at the mall between the Waynesboro and Chambersburg parades," she said. "They really like shopping."

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