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Vincent Massey Secondary School
Massey Multicultural Dinner 2014
Picture 3 - Albania's dancers.jpg

Picture 2 - Serbia's volunteers.jpg

Story by Iris Chang
On Wednesday November 26th, Massey's annual Multicultural Dinner was held from 5:30 to 8:00PM in the school's cafeteria. In total, twenty-five countries from all over the world were represented and approximately 170 Massey students were involved with the organization and running of the event. By the end of the night, the tickets were sold out and more than 500 attendees were served, including the volunteers!  The attendees ranged from current and past Massey students, parents, and staff members, to other members of the community.

            This year the event was themed and titled "Wedding Wonderland", showcasing Massey's multiculturalism through the lenses of wedding customs.  The event was chaired by Anshika Jain, Sadhana Chinnusamy, Jasmine Dhuga, and Iris Chang (that's me!) with invaluable guidance and help from Ms. Mohan and Ms. Leonardi.  Each represented country was led by executives who have met every week in the past month and worked very hard for the night. 

       All of our volunteers were dressed in traditional clothing.  Many attendees also arrived wearing traditional cultural clothing, adding to the festivity and accepting atmosphere of the event.  Throughout the night our guests enjoyed a great variety of foods and cultural music.  As the sky darkened outside, some countries were getting restless for their special acts. Volunteers for Serbia performed two kolos - Serbian for folk-line dance - before the end of the night. The dances performed were šestorka and užičko, which are culturally well known dances typically performed at the beginning of many Serbian festivals, including weddings. As the music played on, the volunteers danced hand-in-hand, weaving around tables, and welcomed any attendees who would join and attempt to learn the steps.​ Volunteers for Albania also put on a merry dance called A Valle, a traditional dance performed at Albanian celebrations.  Led by the bride at weddings, everyone joins in and takes part in the dance. The Valle dances vary extensively, as each region has their own unique form. It was to my utmost enjoyment to see the shami, which is a piece of red fabric held by the leader of the dance, make its way around the cafeteria, waving energetically to the beat of the song.

            By this time the atmosphere was upbeat and relaxed, and some time later, when a Bhangra song came up, many of the South-East Asian volunteers bolted to the small clearing in front of the stage for a short and excited session of Bhangra dance.  If one were to assume that the South-East Asian volunteers were the only ones enthralled with the dance, they would be mistaken!  As the crowd with everyone’s hands above their heads augmented, it was easy to see that it was a very diverse body of people sharing their love for dance! All of these wonderful dances of pure effort and contagious festivity were met with loud applause and cheers.  From time to time, attendees of different cultures would jump in and join other volunteers for the dances, then rush back to their station for their serving shift.

            Besides these thrilling celebratory dances, the wedding theme was also explored through the decorations of the venue.  Each country was given a presentation board, and the freedom to make anything out of it.  The group for Bangladesh exceeded everyone's expectations with a beautiful carriage cut-out, complete with chiffon and intricate designs!  The carriage is called "Palki" in Bengali and is commonly used to carry the bride to and from her wedding ceremony. The group did quick photography sessions of the board with any guests who were interested.

            Other represented countries also showed their customs of weddings through the different colours and symbols painted on their boards.  For example, the character for "double happiness", used almost exclusively for marriages, was painted with gold - symbolizing material wealth - on the red background of Vietnam's board, where red represents happiness and good fortune.

            Whereas weddings are typically the unions of families and love, Massey's 
tradition of The Multicultural Dinner has gone farther than even this.  In uniting the 
hearts of all lovers of food, music, dance, and art across the varied cultural and ethnic domains represented throughout our diverse student body, it has come to be one of the many demonstrations of cultural harmony and mutual respect that exists within the halls and heart of Massey.  The dinner also serves as a great opportunity for students to unwind and enjoy the atmosphere of celebration, relieving themselves from the intensity of school.  I am proud to be able to say that the dinner has come to be a testimony of Massey's dedication to a diverse, accepting environment, only made possible through the presence and effort of everyone who attended. Thank you to all who came, dear guests and volunteers, it was an honour to share so many special memories with you!  In learning about the many cultures represented throughout our school, we have created our own special Mustang family.  In sharing our differences, we can find a means to further connect with and learn from each other.