Celebrating holidays across the world

by Amela Nevaljalovic

December. The last month of the year. Something that some of us have been waiting since the begining of the year and some of us don’t want the year to end just yet. Doesn’t matter if you belong to the first or second group of people, the fact is that the end of the year is approaching and the holiday atmosphere is in the air. People and kids have become anxious about this time period and everybody is in the rush to finish their work and decoration. Everything is in the spirit of Christmas and New Year.  We can all evidently see the lights and decorations all over the streets and they all look astonishing. Everything is in Christmas and New Year’s spirit and nobody could imagine spending the month of December otherwise. Well, at least not in America. December in USA is known as the month of Jesus and that is how is celebrated. It is a month of love and sharing. We all kind of try to act as good as we can and to spend as much as time with our closest one as possible. It truly is a beautiful time of the year. Lot of countries and families have their ways of spending holidays and they all differ from one another.

A lot of countries in the world do not celebrate Christmas on December 25th but on January 7th which is the case with Eastern Europe. Or for instance China and Saudi Arabia have different dates for celebrating New Year’s Eve. All of this is something most of us do not pay attention to or most likely a lot of us don’t know these customs across the world. The important thing is to create a cultural understanding for all of the groups of people who have their own way of celebrating holidays. All of these traditions are special and beautiful in diverse way and we should all cherish it.

Luckily for us here at Sterling High, this year we have a lot of kids from all parts of the world who were more than happy to share with us their traditions throughout the beautiful winter days. Ons Laroussi is an exchange student from Tunisia, Northern Africa told us that people from Tunisia do not celebrate Christmas either, but they do celebrate the birth of their Prophet, Mohammed which is called mouled, which happened to be this year in the month of December. This is similar to Christmas because both of the holidays are related to birth. Laroussi told us that she might spend the holidays up at the mountains skiing which will be her first time since there is no snow in Tunisia. ‘Christmas traditions are fun. I did not expect them to be like this, I have only seen some things in the movies but I didn’t imagine it being like this,’ said Laroussi. ‘Christmas songs are beautiful and I enjoyed listening to them’, said Laroussi. The thing she enjoyed doing the most was decorating the tree and making special cookies. And of course seeing Santa Claus and making special wish. Laroussi told us that she is thankful for all of this being part of her exchange year and that she is looking forward to the next year, which will hopefully be even more successful.

Another exchange student, Saengchat Theraakitspal, from Thailand, Southeast Asia, told us that people from there do not celebrate Christmas. Only Christian schools. Even though people don’t celebrate Christmas they are in a big hurry during the month of December and that is because of New Year. Theraakitspal said that people are often travelling and are away during New Year’s Eve. These trips usually last about five days or so and are usually inside of country because it is cheaper and because of the economic reason. But some people travel abroad, as well. Mona Suppasara, another exchange student from Thailand is looking forward to celebrating Christmas. ‘We don’t celebrate Christmas in Thailand and this will be a very exciting experience for me and my host family’, said Suppasara. New year is celebrated on the same date and it is usually spent with the family. Suppasara also had a chance to see Santa and talk to him which was new to her. Her and Theraakitspal have been very happy about the opportunity and experiencing the traditions of these holidays and hey are happy that they got a chance to get familiar with all these traditions here in the United States of America.

Laroussi, Suppasara and Theraakitspal are very excited about celebrating Christmas for the first time and they are happy that they got a chance to celebrate it here in the USA. Michelle Lihsin, student from China shared with us that people in China do not celebrate Christmas at all and that New Year’s Eve is never on the same date. Basically, each year it is a different date and time. They have many different activities and this is considered the most important day of the year. ‘Kids usually get money from the elderly and they are looking forward to this’, said Lihsin. Lihsin is very excited for Christmas in the America and happy that she can do many things she could not have done in China and she is very happy about the Christmas break which lasts longer than her winter break.

 Also, they are all excited about the presents since this is the time of giving and sharing. Exchange students also liked the Ugly sweater Day at school. That was really something new for all of us and we enjoyed it very much. All of the exchange students have wished us Merry Christmas and good wishes.

As a student from Europe I can say that people overseas celebrate Christmas in many ways and it is a very special holiday for Europeans. For a lot of countries such as Italy or Spain this is a big holiday. People really try to make it best as possible. In my country mostly Catholics celebrate Christmas at this time of the year. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas traditionally on January 7th. This is also the case with countries such as Serbia, France and Russia. New years eve is also celebrate on December 31st and most of the people spend it with their love ones. A big amount of people go to countries like Austria or Greece for holidays just as trip. Everybody has different customs and everybody celebrate it differently.

Mona (right) showing Ons (left) a flag from Thailand.
Mona (right) showing Ons (left) a flag from Thailand.

My family’s New Years/Christmas tradition is decorating the inside of the house and putting up baloons and of course Christmas tree. My tree is not as near as big as the ones here because it is a plastic one but it is nice and has lights on it. Here, my host family and I had bought a real tree wich is 7 feet high and looks beautiful!

Some people like to make a list of things they have accomplished that year and if not they put is a bucket list for the next one. I often do that and it really motivates a person to try and experience new things.

Altough we celebrate Christmas and New Years, Europeans do not go to the extreme as American citizens do. We do not go from door to door singing Christmas carols or decorate schools. But that’s not the case with America. The looks of the houses and streets and even stores are tremendous. Everything is in holiday spirit and the views are amazing. The amount of time and effort people put in decorating their places is really something we can admire. For me personally, seeing houses decorated the day after Halloween was the most interesting things. People just threw their Halloween decorations and put Christmas ones. And after that it just became more and more obvious that Christmas is approaching. I am also thankful that I got the opportunity to experience this whole American way of celebrating this for a lot of people, favourite holiday. It’s great sharing culture from Africa, Asia and Europe and showing Americans how do people from another side of the world celebrate December.

In the end we can say that December is a time of love, sharing and giving. It is special month in all continents and even though people mark it and celebrate it differently it is still a month that is mostly spend with family and close friend. It is not about expensive gifts but about little things that connect us and that just mean that we mean to someone or that somebody means to us. All of the exchange students are thankful for the opportunity and glad that they got the chance of experiencing this whole Holiday euphoria! Us from Colorado hope that we will at least get a chance to have a Christmas and New Year with snow and that we will be making Christmas angels in the snow. From our Sterling High School exchange staff, we wish you all Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Ons and Mona standing in front of their advisory Christmas decorated door
Ons and Mona standing in front of their advisory Christmas decorated door