Many of us have Christmas traditions, for example here in Spain most homes set up Nacimientos/Belenes—Spanish word for Bethelhem. It’s a nativity scene of art objects used to represent the birth of Jesus. Being an international student at CEU Valencia has opened my eyes to a variety of cultural differences and festivities. It’s super intriguing to meet students from so many different countries around the world. With that being said, I was able to ask a few international students about their own Christmas traditions.
Ana from Switzerland shared with me that “Samichlaus” (Santa Claus in the German speaking parts of Switzerland) and his helper Schmutzli visit children on December 6th. In her case, they would visit her school so that Ana and her classmates could recite poems. The well-behaved children were given chocolates, gingerbread, peanuts and mandarins. They also do parades across the country where they give out these same things for everyone to share.
Being able to reunite and spend time with our loved ones is the most meaningful part of celebrating Christmas
Ana whose parents are originally from Spain celebrate the night of January 5th where parades take place all across the country in which the Three King’s throw sweets to the children from their carriages. That night the children leave milk and turrones for the Three Kings and their camels as well as their shoes out in order for the Kings to drop off gifts. The next day—Day of the Epiphany, Ana’s family gets the Roscón de Reyes. It’s a sweet bread shaped as an oval, topped with candied fruits and sometimes stuffed with cream. Inside there’s hidden figures, whoever finds the figure gets to be a King for the day and the person who finds the bean has to buy next year’s Roscón.
Martine from Norway decorates her Christmas tree every 23rd of December as well as watch Grevinnen og Hovmesteren. The following day, on the 24th Martine opens her stocking to reveal marzipan, mandarins and chocolates. They then as a family watch a Ukrainian movie Tre nøtter til askepot. After the movie, they visit the graveyards of their loved ones to gift flowers, as well as Christmas decorations which include pine and candles to commemorate them and rejoice. Ribbe is a traditional pork dish eaten on Christmas eve, finished by Riskrem, a sweet cold porridge topped with a red sauce, similar to arroz con leche. The lucky one who discovers an almond in their dessert wins a pig shaped marzapan. The exchanging of gifts happens exclusively on the 24th and not much is celebrated on the 25th.
Prisca, a French classmate of mine celebrates Christmas at her grandparents’ house in Brussels, in which she explains looks a lot like the movies. Streets are filled with Christmas décor and lights, Christmas trees at every round about, and Bélens are commonly seen at church doors. Every year her parents take her and her siblings to the city center, where the true magic of Christmas is experienced. A light show begins every hour accompanied by special Christmas tunes and last-minute holiday shopping is done at the Christmas market. Waffles and hot chocolate are a great way to warm up while enjoying all of the festivities Brussels has to offer.
On the 24th all of the cooking and decorating takes place. Prisca and her family go to church and in the meantime Santa stops by and drops an array of different gifts for everyone. Together they open their gifts near the chimney. While this is all very exciting Prisca believes that being able to reunite and spend time with her loved ones is the most meaningful part of celebrating Christmas.