By Amelia Panella ’18
With more than 60 nationalities represented in our community, it’s no surprise that few families celebrate their holidays in the same way. Coming back from this year’s winter break, my friends told me all about their time with their families and how they spent Christmas, New Year’s, and other celebrations. I found myself thinking how bizarre some of their traditions sounded to me. And then I thought, “Well, my traditions probably sound just as strange to them!”
Coming from a background of both German and Italian culture, my holidays are always a bit of a jumble. Christmas Eve often consists of my father (who doesn’t speak a word of German) humming along to German Christmas carols with my German relatives while we eat Italian Panettone. We then wait for the candles to blow out on the tree to make our wishes, as it is a big tradition in my family and lots of other German families. This tradition consists of decorating our Christmas tree with candles and lighting them before dinner on Christmas Eve. We watch them closely during the evening and wait until the last candle blows out to make our wishes. Unfortunately, more often than not we get distracted and miss the moment when the last candle blows out.
My Christmas takes place mainly on the evening of the 24th of December—also another German tradition—unlike the approach taken by my American friend Jasper. He only gets to open one present on Christmas Eve, as the real celebration is during Christmas Day on the 25th. My Danish friend Laerke, like me, celebrates Christmas on December 24. On Christmas Eve, her family gathers around their tree and dances around it holding hands and singing Danish Christmas carols. They also sing a special song called “Nu det jul igen” after dinner and have to run through every room in the house prior to opening the presents under the tree.
|These are the moments in which we’re able to see just how diverse we all are and how we can still come together to celebrate as one unified community.|
But Christmas is not the only celebration of this season. My Italian friend Michelle celebrates Hanukkah as half her family is Jewish. In fact, she celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. On the last day of Hanukkah, her family gathers together at her house to light the last candle on the Menorah and to recite a special prayer. They spend the rest of the evening singing Jewish songs together and playing games such as the dreidel.
I’m sure many of us dream of a white Christmas, and living in Switzerland that’s not uncommon. For my Brazilian friend Veronica, Christmas may not be white, but New Year’s surely is. Wearing white on New Year’s in Brazil is a tradition and is meant to bring you good luck into the new year.
Although my Russian friends Sasha and Anna come from the same country, they celebrate the holidays in different ways. Sasha’s family has a New Year’s Eve tradition of writing a wish on a piece of paper, burning it, and pouring the ashes into their champagne glasses, which they drink at midnight. This Russian tradition is widely celebrated and brings luck for the New Year. Anna, on the other hand, gathers with her entire family for the holidays and celebrates Orthodox Christmas on January 7, but her biggest festivity is New Year’s. Russians prepare a special meal for New Year’s Day consisting of a salad called Olivier and Dressed Herring, which they call “herring under a fur coat!”
Like Russia, many other countries prepare special meals for New Year’s Day. Italians, for example, eat a meat dish called Cotechino with lentils for good luck. Although my family does not usually eat this, Michelle’s does, as it is a typical New Year’s Day dish in many parts of Italy.
Other New Year’s traditions around the world include buying gifts for loved ones, which is common in Turkey and is also my friend Sezer’s favorite tradition. This is why Sezer buys gifts for his family and friends to make sure they will be brought happiness throughout their year. It is a common belief that however the year ends will predict the spirit of the whole new year.
Everybody has their own traditions, whether cultural or personal, and this is the season when they all intertwine. These are the moments in which we’re able to see just how diverse we all are and how we can still come together to celebrate as one unified community.