Exploring holiday traditions around the world with AFS

As your exchange students experienced their first American Christmas, we asked them to tell us about their typical holidays traditions around the world.  Some were similar, some very different, but all sounded uniquely fun.

“Italy and America are very similar. We usually hang out the Christmas Time with our families, having the “Big Dinner” on Christmas Eve or the “Big Lunch” on Christmas Day.  New Years is a big deal, we have parties with our friends.  If Christmas is “The Family Day”, New Year is “The Friends Day”!  –  Tom, Italy

“Christmas is a foreign holiday in China, as Christianity is not a significant religion there. We enjoy winter break, and take advantage of some store discounts and maybe decorate a little.  Spring Festival is our most important holiday, like Christmas, in China.  This is the time we get together with family and trade gifts with friends. We have dumplings at the spring festival eve dinner.

We celebrate the New Year in January or February because of the Chinese lunar calendar it changes every year, which changes every year. People travel home, and people visit relatives and friends during the first few days of the new year.  On New Year’s Eve, family members gather together and have a big dinner. The following few days, stores are closed people visit relatives and friends enjoy wearing new clothes. Adults will give kids pocket money instead of gifts”. – Sylvia, China

“We give importance to be with our family.   A curious thing, we eat 12 grapes in the first 12 seconds of the year to have good luck.” – Marc, Spain

“Normally, in Thailand we don’t celebrate Christmas. But in many places they decorate with big Christmas trees or Santa Claus in the malls to let everyone come and take photo with.  New year is the same as here, everyone waits for countdown together.

We also have Thai new year, it’s on 13th-15th of April. It’s called Songkran. We come back to see family and pour water to older people in family to show respect. And we splash water to each other by water guns. It’s really fun. We exchange presents with friends for new year more than Christmas.” – Nink, Thailand

Our Scandanavian students have a winter holiday typically filled with snow and skiing, so Charlotte was an adjustment.  In Norway, they celebrate Christmas Eve opening presents after dinner.  In Finland, Jussi says Santa actually comes to your house.  Any Finn will tell you that Santa lives in Finland, despite what we think.  Rice pudding for Santa, rather than Milk and Cookies.  Holiday meal includes: Pinnekjøtt or directly translated to “Stick Meat” which is lamb. – Sofie, Norway and Jussi, Finland