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The Holidays Abroad

The holiday break is fast approaching, and the excitement around campus is vibrant. Everyone is excited to go home and be with their families for the holidays to take part in their own unique holiday traditions. While many Catawba students live within the United States, some Catawba students will be travelling to their homes in other countries to celebrate the holidays. Across the world, this time of year marks the season for the biggest holidays of the year. Although 160 countries celebrate Christmas and New Year’s, each country celebrates with their own unique traditions. A few foreign Catawba students share their holiday experiences to enlighten American raised students about the holidays abroad.

4,447 miles away in Sheffield, England, Catawba freshman Jack Joel will be spending the holidays with his family. In England, Christmas is celebrated much like the United States, besides the added bonus of being able to legally drink alcohol. “Because the drinking age is 18, I go out drinking with my family and friends.” Jack and his family enjoy a big feast on Christmas day. “Thanksgiving meal here, is like what we have on Christmas,” Jack says. “We also have pigs in a blanket, which is little sausages wrapped in bacon.” Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year in England, but New Year’s Eve is also greatly celebrated. “I eat Chinese food with my family on New Years Eve, and then we watch Big Ben countdown until midnight,” explains Jack. Similar to the United States, there are plenty of performances leading up to midnight and fireworks following the countdown. “At midnight there are fireworks over the city’s famous ferris wheel, the London Eye,” says Jack. “And there is a show leading up to the fireworks.” After family time and watching the fireworks, the New Year is celebrated long into the night.

A few hours west of England in Newport Mayo, Ireland, freshman Jenny Chambers looks forward to Ireland’s annual live TV shows the most. “We watch the Late Late Show, and it has kids presenting toys on it,” says Jenny. “It is a show everyone in Ireland watches before Christmas. It’s brilliant,” Jenny adds. Christmas is full of unique traditions in Ireland, and their New Year’s Eve celebration is no different. “We watch the clock in Dublin, Ireland countdown on New Year’s Eve, and then we hold hands and sing the New Years song,” explains Jenny. Once the song is over, their luck for the new year depends on who the next person is to walk through their home door. “If a handsome man walks in you will have good luck, but if a woman with blond or red hair comes you’ll have bad luck” says Jenny. Luckily, Jenny’s family has not experienced any bad luck yet.

In Lisbon, Portugal, freshman Carolina Correia will be celebrating the holiday season. In Portugal, Christmas isn’t focused on having a big celebration or celebrating Jesus’ birth, but rather centered around family. “Christmas here is more about family,” says Carolina. Similar to the United States, Portugal has a Father Christmas who leaves children gifts under the tree or in shoes by the fireplace. However the Christmas Eve cuisine is a little different. “We eat codfish on the 24th,” says Carolina. This is normally followed by shellfish, wild meats, and other expensive foods. The cuisine may be unique, but the New Year’s Eve celebration is much like other countries. “Most people go to Terreiro do Paço (a historical landmark in Lisbon)  to countdown and watch fireworks,” explains Carolina. However there is a unique tradition once the new year begins. “When it’s midnight, you eat twelve raisins and you make a wish for each one,” says Carolina. Unfortunately, many of Carolina’s wishes have not come true.

Just a few hours south from Portugal in Malaga, Spain, freshman Borja Gasper will also be celebrating a Christmas that is centered around family. “No church. Some do, but most don’t,” says Borja. Instead of going to church, the family spends Christmas Eve preparing a big feast, “We have tortilla de patata (spanish omelette), jamon serrano (dried-cured ham), gazpacho (cold soup with vegetables), and chicken,” says Borja. After the family dinner, Borja’s family has a unique family tradition. “Each year one member of my family dress like Santa Claus and run outside in the garden, and the children go watch,” explains Borja. “The parents put presents under the tree when kids watch, and Santa run into the living room when presents are out.” Much like Christmas, New Year’s Eve is filled with unique traditions. “Madrid has a big clock, and when it’s twelve in the morning we have twelve seconds to hit a ring and you eat a grape every second,” explains Borja. “If you eat all twelve grapes you will have luck for next year.” After the twelve grapes at midnight, many go to private parties. “After party, in morning you eat churros with chocolate,” says Borja. That sounds like a delicious way to start Christmas morning.

Moving east from European countries to a country in Africa called Eritrea, Christmas is also all about the food. “We eat tsebhi/zigni (beef stew in tomato sauce), dorno (seafood), and alicha (stew of meat and vegetables),” says freshman Michael Nuguse from Asmara, Eritrea. Although Eritreans celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, they have a bigger celebration for Jesus on January 7th. “The biggest holiday is Lidet on January 7th, when Jesus was born because we are very religious,” explains Michael. New Year’s Eve is also celebrated a little differently than the United States. According to the Julian Calendar that Eritreans follow, the New Year starts September 12th. “We still get together as a family and eat food,” says Michael. “But it’s not that big of deal.” Although New Year’s may not be heavily celebrated, the two Christmas celebrations makeup for it.

Across the Atlantic Ocean from Eritrea to Rio, Brazil, freshman Joseph Honorio will be celebrating will be celebrating one of his countries biggest holidays of the year. “Christmas is a pretty big deal in Brazil,” says Joseph. “It is a lot like here with a Christmas tree and Papa Noel, but we are more religious.” For a Christmas feast, they enjoy pork, ham, turkey with rice and raisins. “The food is kinda similar, but natural and unprocessed,” says Joseph. On Christmas Eve devout Catholics attend “Missa do Gallo” or midnight mass, and continue worshipping the days following Christmas. Although Christmas in an important holiday in Brazil, New Year’s Eve is not. “New Year’s Eve is not as big of a deal. It’s not on TV and there’s no clock. It’s mainly celebrated within families,” explains Joseph.

Although the holidays are celebrated in many forms across the world, the two things they all have in common is no homework and plenty of time with family and friends. So, keep pushing through these final days Catawba students, and end the semester on a high note. Soon you’ll be celebrating the holidays with your family, whether you’re celebrating 4,000 miles or two. Have a great break and we’ll see you next year.

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