International traditions, American holiday

Many Crusaders find that the winter months bring memories of home, from Ecuador and Puerto Rico to China.

By incorporating their international traditions, Christmas in America looks different for each student, regardless of where they find their roots.

Freshman biology major Victoria Fahy spent several years in Ecuador, where the holiday extends over several weeks.

“Ecuador is very religious because it’s Catholic in the area. Novenas is a cool thing …. It’s where we go caroling, get hot chocolate, talk about Jesus and go to nativity scenes. There are so many nativities, way more than you see in the states,” she said.

Sophomore clinical lab science and nursing major Kia Torres lived in Puerto Rico most of her life. Her family integrates Spanish culture as they transition into American life.

“In Puerto Rico, we are really lively and loud. We do caroling so much bigger. We use maracas, drums, and deck out our cars to do the same things Americans do calmly. We aren’t proper like Americans,” she said.

The Latin communities incorporate fireworks into their celebrations. Torres remembers her first Christmas in the U.S. and how she had to adjust to new customs.

“We wanted to shoot fireworks, and we didn’t know it was banned where we lived. It’s such a big thing where I’m from, that it’s just weird to me that it isn’t as loud here,” she said. “I remember when I was little; Santa would be on a motorcycle. It is just different.”

Sophomore chemistry major and international student Wilks Jiang enjoys having a winter break. In China, he went to school on Dec. 25. Instead, they take Chinese New Year’s off.

“We celebrate Christmas at night by getting drinks, food and shopping…. There is no special food people eat on Christmas Day or Eve. They just go out with friends .… (It’s) not a family-oriented tradition,” he said.

Most citizens of China don’t even know the meaning of Christmas or why Americans make such a big deal of the day.

“To celebrate on the 24th is more popular than the actual day. Most people don’t know why they celebrate … probably because it’s popular in America. The government doesn’t care .… It’s not considered religious,” Jiang said.

While Chinese celebrate individually, Puerto Ricans commemorate the holiday as a community, doing things uniquely in each town.

“If we wanted to see a religious service, we could go to a certain town. Each one offers something totally different …. Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until mid-January. It’s a big deal,” Torres said.

While the Christmas feast is common, Fahy said that Ecuadorians have an odd practice in addition to this.

“They do El Ano de Viejo, where they make figures of celebrities or political figures, and light them on fire. You can buy them in the streets .… It’s kind of a cool thing,” she said. “We did a huge parade where there are floats and music. Santa is definitely overshadowed by baby Jesus.”

Internationally minded students remember their roots while still participating in American culture through decorating.

Fahy and her family decorate with red, green and reminders of the jolly old fellow. But like Ecuadorians, they focus on Jesus as the reason for the season.

Torres, too, finds it best to merge two cultures.

While her apartment’s Christmas tree and accessories are American, other elements remind her of home.

She said, “Even here, we still incorporate those traditions. For New Year’s, my mom and I take our suitcases into the streets to show we get to travel in the year that’s coming. We still keep all of the recipes from my grandma so it still tastes like Puerto Rico.”

Author: Katelyn Holm

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