Foreign Exchange Students Share Holiday Traditions

Students from around the world describe what Christmas is like in their country of origin

Gracie Killgore, Op/Ed Editor

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The time of year for those annual holiday traditions has finally arrived. Whether it be setting up Christmas decorations or baking cookies, families around the world are gearing up for the holidays. Many of Skutt Catholic’s foreign exchange students are preparing to spend their first Christmas in America.

Laura Banikova, a Skutt Catholic junior, was born and raised in Slovakia in Košice City.

Many Slovakians are very religious, and most are Roman and Greek Catholics. “Before Christmas we traditionally have four candles and closer to Christmas more candles are lit. Almost in every big city there are some christmas markets,” said Skutt Catholic junior Laura Banikova. These Christmas markets often sell traditional decorations and food such as roasted chestnuts, steamed meat, sausage, and alcoholic punch.

Christmas trees are also a significant tradition in Banikova’s country of origin. “Usually at the center of the city is a big Christmas tree. My family sets up the Christmas tree and all decorations the day before Christmas Eve, but some families do it earlier,” said Banikova.

Banikova also celebrates unique traditions that many Americans are not aware of. “In Slovak Republic we have a tradition that everyone eats carp, a type of fish, and salmon on Christmas Eve. But we get the carp alive, and then we keep them in our bathtubs, and the day before Christmas Eve we start to prepare them,” said Banikova.

Christmas Eve is Banikova’s favorite day of the Christmas season. The little children in Slovakia wait in their rooms on Christmas Eve because they believe Jesus is bringing presents under the tree. “At around 6 or 7 pm, the bell rings and everyone comes to the living room. All lights are turned off and only Christmas the tree lights are on,” said Banikova.

Yuxin Zhu, better known as Kray, is a Skutt Catholic foreign exchange student from China. Christmas isn’t a traditional holiday in China because it is a religious celebration. However, China has been affected by the Western culture and does have some Christmas traditions. “Some places will set up Christmas trees and many shopping malls will have discounts this week to celebrate Christmas,” said Skutt Catholic junior Kray Zhu. “Although we don’t have Christmas, some people like to give an apple as a gift to the people they want to appreciate or some close friends on Dec 24th,” Zhu continued.

Tomas Bargel is a Skutt Catholic junior from the Czech Republic. In the Czech Republic, Santa Claus is not acknowledged or celebrated, instead, it is baby Jesus who brings gifts for the children. “The traditional meal consists of breaded and fried carp with the side of potato salad, sometimes preceded by mushroom or fish soup,” said Skutt Catholic junior Tomas Bargel. Bargel enjoys the traditional Christmas Markets built on the main squares in the city centers of major towns for the advent season. “I really enjoy the atmosphere they bring and how pretty they are,” said Bargel.

Many of the foreign exchange students are celebrating their first Christmas in America this year. “I am really looking forward to getting together with my host family, decorating our Christmas tree, and then simply experiencing your way of celebrating Christmas,” said Bargel.

Whether one is spending Christmas at home or in another country, Christmas traditions make the holidays the joyous occasions that many look forward to all year.

Gracie Killgore

Gracie joined The Flightline in January of 2018. She is a junior this year, involved in tennis, HOSA and FBLA . Outside of school, she enjoys online shopping, hanging out with friends and watching Netflix. You can email her at [email protected]