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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Christmas around the world

Kathrin Bentz ’20 and her sister Carlotta Betnz last Christmas Eve at their home in Dessendorf, Germany. PHOTO COURTESY OF: KATHRIN BENTZ ’20

International students share their holiday traditions

Roommates Kathrin Bentz ’20 and Victoria Kammerinke ’20 will be heading home to Germany at the end of the semester to celebrate Christmas with their families. Until then, they’re kicking off the holiday here at St. Joe’s with some traditions from home.

Bentz has an Advent calendar, commonly made and gifted in Germany. It’s one of her favorite Christmas traditions.  

“My mom used to make advent calendars,” Bentz said, “So leading up to Christmas, starting on Dec. 1, we would have one little chocolate or lottery ticket. I think that’s really neat. I [started] making them for my sister or for my mom.”

Baking Christmas cookies is another popular German tradition. Bentz has been going to her grandmother’s house to bake cookies since she was 3 years old.

In their house on Woodcrest Avenue, where the women have set up a tree and lights, Kammerinke has been munching on a variety of homemade cookies–nut wedges, spitzbuben and mandelstollen–that her mother sent her from Germany.  

“She got the recipe from her grandma, and it’s just passed on from [each] generation,” Kammerinke said. “My brothers helped bake them. It’s really cool.”

Kammerinke, who is Catholic, and Bentz, who is Protestant, both celebrate Christmas for religious reasons and said going to church on Dec. 24 is a huge part of their Christmas celebrations. In Germany, Christmas Eve is a bigger celebration than Christmas day, with festivities taking place in homes after church.

“That is, for me, when the Christmas spirit is coming, when everyone is singing in the church,” Bentz said. “Then we would go home and have the big dinner.”

For Nelsy Bográn ’21, born and raised in Honduras, the biggest Christmas celebrations also happen on Dec. 24. Bolgrán said on Dec. 24, most people dress up, get together, exchange presents and sing. On the Dec. 25, they eat leftovers, spend the day in pajamas and open gifts from Santa.

“In the Latin culture, it’s not weird to see a lot of families getting together in one same house to celebrate, and they’ll have a big feast,” Bográn said. “I feel like people here are usually reserved, and they celebrate on their own with their own families. They don’t do big group celebrations.”

Bográn’s family is Catholic and celebrates the holiday for religious reasons, as do many Latin Americans, she said. But traditions vary among families.

“I know a lot of people that only have dinner at the house and that’s it, whereas my family, we go to church, and sometimes, days before Christmas, go to orphanages and give presents to kids,” Bográn said. “Every person celebrates it in a different way, but at the end of the day, I think everybody has a good time.”

Bográn has found ways to celebrate the days leading up to Christmas with her roommates by decorating their apartment in Lannon Hall, listening to Christmas music, watching Christmas movies and putting up a pine tree. She said having friends here and focusing on the positive helps keep her from being too homesick this time of year.

“As long as you have love around you, Christmas is going to be there no matter what,” Bográn said.

For some international students, Christmas in the United States is a first. Abdulmjeed Al Amer ’19, who is from Saudi Arabia, a Muslim country, said Christmas is not celebrated in his home country.

Instead, Al Amer celebrates Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. The dates for these religious celebrations vary each year, but generally take place from May to August after the month of Ramadan is completed.

“We have the month of Ramadan, when we fast,” Al Amer said. “After we do that for a month, we’ll celebrate Eid al-Fitr. And there’s a second one for pilgriming, Eid al-Adha, which would be in July, just one day.”

Al Amer said Saudis do not have any celebrations in December, but some other countries in the Middle East, such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the Emirates, do celebrate New Year’s and have decorations and celebrations during that time of the year.

While Al Amer does not personally celebrate anything during Christmastime, he said he enjoys going to places where people are celebrating, and learning and experiencing new things.

“The most important thing is the gathering with family and friends,” Al Amer said. “That has allowed us to strengthen our relationship with our people, with our relatives, forgive some people that did some mistake.”

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