Winter celebrations worldwide

Amber Englebert

The holiday season is upon us. For most students at Missouri Southern it’s time to trim trees, decorate houses and drink eggnog while waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. But for international students, other traditions come to mind.

“In my own family we go to Christmas Mass,” said Alix Miallou, senior education major from France, “Then we come back home and have a really good dinner. Salmon. Foie Fras. We eat by the light of the candles. We have the Christmas tree and everything, but we don’t have stockings. Instead we put shoes under the tree to be filled.”

While the Christmas tree may be a recurring theme, it isn’t always store-bought or pre-lit.

“We have a real Christmas tree, not a fake one,” said Maurice Cramer, freshman CIS and international business major. Cramer is from Germany. “Most of the time, real candles are used on the tree, or white lights. No blinking, colorful ones.

“Advent is celebrated before Christmas. Every Sunday until Christmas a candle is lit on a wreath. A Christmas angel, Christkind, comes on Christmas to give gifts. Santa only comes on Dec. 6, and he fills up shoes.”

The winter holiday season in the United States is full of religious overtones, but that is not the case everywhere.

“We don’t celebrate a religious Christmas in Japan,” said Aki Imada, sophomore business major. “We just have a big party or exchange gifts. Some people celebrate with cake or a Christmas tree. Boyfriends and girlfriends exchange gifts, and parents give gifts to their children. Children give parents gifts when they become adults, 18 or 19 years old.

“Some people do go to church because they are Christian.”

Other international students describe a variety of festive ways to celebrate. Some are religious and some are not.

“A few weeks before Christmas, we have pasadas,” said Beverly Grau, a sophomore international studies major from Guatemala. “Pasadas basically means when someone lets you crash at their house. We walk a statue of the Virgin Mary from house to house in town. Each house offers the people treats, and the people walking sing songs. On the last day everyone stays at one house because Jesus is born. We celebrate on the 24th, not the 25th. We open the gifts at midnight.”

Junior mathematics major Evelyn Lechuga describes a similar celebration.

“We basically do the same thing with pasadas in Mexico,” she said. “We throw firecrackers and light gunpowder. We cook a lot of food. We do a gift exchange, but little kids don’t get gifts from Santa. On Jan. 6, they get gifts from the 3 Wise Men.”

Christmas isn’t always the big holiday and doesn’t always come at the same time for some international students.

“We celebrate New Year’ s like Christmas,” said Ilya Tyurikov, a senior CIS and biology major from Russia. “A week or two before New Year’s, we had gifts under the tree that we would open on New Year’s. When New Years came, we’d watch TV. There was usually a New Year’s special. We’d watch the countdown and drink champagne.

“Gifts are brought by Grandfather Frost. Sometimes his daughter Snegurichka helps him. He doesn’t have reindeer, so it’s assumed he just walks. He puts presents under the tree if you’ve been good.”

“We do Hanukkah, which includes playing dreidel and making latkes and lighting the menorah,” said Matthew Port, a sophomore psychology major from Joplin. “Giving gifts during Hanukkah is more of a new age thing. Small gifts are given for each of the eight nights. Hanukah is about freedom from oppression. The gifts are so that kids don’t feel left out, since Christmas and Hanukkah fall around the same time.”