TU is home to many international students, and as the holiday season nears, some of the differences between cultures become more evident.
Renan Kuntz, a freshman from Brazil, noted “our Christmas would probably look like your Thanksgiving.”
“We have almost the same meals,” he added. “We have turkey, and then you add whatever you want for sides.”
He loves Christmas because “all the city is lit up with Christmas lights.” In his city, he said, “they have a Santa house. They put like a house in the city, usually in a square or park, and the kids can go talk to Santa.”
Although Kuntz noted that his family doesn’t have many traditions, there are several for New Year’s. His family has “a meal and when it is midnight, they have fireworks . . . In cities where they have beaches, they have huge New Year’s fireworks,” he noted, and added if celebrating on a beach, “you have to jump seven times because that will bring you luck.”
His family also eats lentils because they bring good luck. Kuntz added, “everybody wears white because that symbolizes peace. But if you want to get money next year, you have to wear yellow or gold…If you want love, you should wear red. If you want hope, you wear green.”
For Tana Alison, a freshman from Turkey, the holidays are a little different. Because Christmas is a mainly Christian holiday, her country doesn’t widely celebrate it, although you can still see some Christmas trees and decorations.
Instead, she celebrates New Year’s on March 21. “New Year’s, as a tradition, for us, is in March,” she said, “because spring is coming—and new beginning and new life.” This holiday is “like the beginning of spring.”
“Everybody cleans their home, makes traditional cookies, and there’s breaks, so girls help their mothers,” according to Alison. “There’s a lot of traditions,” she noted, “to predict the age of marriage, or even the person. There’s fun stuff for kids.” One of the traditions is having “a bonfire, and you have to jump over it to get rid of the negative things.”
“Some people wear traditional clothes,” as well, and Alison said “in Istanbul, the capital, everybody dresses up and comes and celebrates the holiday.” This holiday is widespread, as it “includes all Turkish countries,” according to Alison.
For Melina von Roenn, a German foreign exchange student, “the pre-Christmas time is a pretty big thing in Germany and everybody loves it.”
“We start with our advent tradition four weeks before Christmas,” she said, “and then we count down.” Advent day is on a Sunday, and Roenn said, “we have a wreath with four candles on it and we light the first candle after first advent.”
But at the same time Roenn said, “everyone has a traditional ‘advents’ calendar…you can open a door every day until Christmas starting the 1st of December.”
In the cities, Roenn said that “Christmas markets are another thing–every city has its own, and the biggest and most famous one is in Nuremberg (a city in the German state of Bavaria).” Because the markets are outside in the winter, Roenn said, “we warm up with some hot mulled wine, roasted almonds and fried ‘schmalzkuchen’ (little German donuts).”
Other food during the holidays is “roast goose or german sausages with potato salad and sauerkraut,” Roenn noted, although her own family “has a ‘raclette,’” which has “got pretty popular during the last years. It’s a little grill that you put on the table,” she said, “and everyone has his or her own little pan to prepare vegetable and cheese or meat.”
Dec. 6 is traditionally “the ‘Nikolaus’ day,” according to Roenn, “mostly celebrated for children because the night before they put their boots in front of their door … When they wake up, the Nikolaus has passed by and either put sweets in your boots if you were well-behaved,” Roenn added, but “if you get a branch, it means that you didn’t behave during the last year.”
The actual Christmas celebration is on Dec. 24, and Roenn said that “usually around the afternoon families come together, sit around the Christmas tree, sing Christmas songs and go to church in the evening … then we get our presents that Santa Claus has put underneath the tree meanwhile.” The following two days “are holidays as well,” according to Roenn, and they “usually have another lunch with the family or see the part of the family that wasn’t there on the 24th.”
Marine Rougeron, a foreign exchange student from France, said, “I think our traditions are not really different from yours.”
For Christmas, “people usually like to be with their family. We like to have a big dinner with family,” noted Rougeron.
In cities, Rougeron said, “there are Christmas markets during one month, starting one month before Christmas.” According to Rougeron, most cities “have a cathedral illumination/ lighting up, while we can hear the story of this cathedral.”
For food, Rougeron said “we like to eat traditional winter French dishes such as Tartiflette and Raclette, and a special winter drink that we call Vin chaud (hot wine) made with red wine, orange and other spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger)”.
For Fahad Ansari, a freshman from Oman, there are two major holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Both of these “are national holidays,” he said, “because it’s an Islamic country.” “The thing in Oman, because it’s a Muslim-majority country, they don’t celebrate Christmas,” he explained.
Eid al-Fitr is “at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting . . . Basically you pray in the morning, and then invite guests over,” he said. According to Ansari, “different countries have different dishes, but basically you cook a lot of food for a lot of people.” For this holiday elders are supposed to give the younger people money.
On the other hand, Ansari said that for Eid al-Adha “traditionally, you slaughter a goat, but people do cows too.” That meat is “distributed to other people or you can just have it amongst your family,” he added.
“There are other holidays as well,” Ansari added, “but those are the most important.”