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CU international students have different Christmas traditions

Dec. 20, 2013
For Immediate Release

 A shopping mall, called Mixc in Nanning, Guangxi, China, features Christmas decorations. It     is in the hometown of Ye Wei "Vicky," a graduate student earning her master's of business  administration degree.

A shopping mall, called Mixc in Nanning, Guangxi, China, features Christmas decorations. It
is in the hometown of Ye Wei “Vicky,” a graduate student earning her master’s of business
administration degree.

By Yvonne Matheas, student news writer

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Gingerbread houses, big sparkling Christmas trees, eggnog, midnight Mass and that one house on the street with the tackiest Christmas decorations ever may be what Americans are familiar with at Christmas, but for international students at CU, the holidays look a little different.

While in America the main festivities take place Dec. 25, in most of the other countries Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 24.

“In Venezuela the tradition is to spend Christmas with your family until midnight, and after midnight you can go to your friend’s house and celebrate,” Sergio Landaeta Ojeda, an English as a Second Language student from Valencia, Venezuela, said.

Another Venezuelan student Jorge Chirinos said, “We spend almost all the time with family and friends. We make hallacas (a traditional Venezuelan Christmas dish) together. We have a Christmas dinner with family, and the family members who live in other places come to that house to celebrate. The dinner has hallacas, ham bread, salad, rice (paella), lasaña, ham. We change presents with each other.”

Unlike in North America, in other countries like Brazil, Germany and South Africa, the Christmas days include celebrating and exchanging presents with friends.

“We have our big Christmas dinner on the 24th, have a great time with the family and unwrap presents under the Christmas tree until maybe midnight, then mostly our parents and grandparents get tired, and we go and meet up with all our friends to celebrate with them too,” Thomas Ball, a junior from Berlin, Germany, said.

One of the most noticeable differences is the weather. When Northern Americans or Europeans think about Christmas they think about snowmen, sledding and drinking hot chocolate to warm up, but in South America, Christians celebrate Christmas in summer.

“It’s summer in Brazil this time of the year, so we have dinner on the porch in our backyard and enjoy the sun and long summer days, while celebrating Christmas,” Samuel Pisciotta, a freshman from Sao Paulo, Brazil, said.

Emiri Anraku of Nagasaki, Japan, who is working toward her master of business administration, said, “The Christians living in our country celebrate it more as a date night for couples or the family has a nice dinner with a big cake.”

 Ye Wei "Vicky" of China stands beside a  Hello Kitty Christmas tree in China. Hello  Kitty is popular in China. (Photo by Shuhua  Liu)
Ye Wei “Vicky” of China stands beside a
Hello Kitty Christmas tree in China. Hello
Kitty is popular in China. (Photo by Shuhua

Ye Wei “Vicky,” a master’s student in business administration, is from China and said you can see signs of Christmas throughout China in December.

“There are Christmas displays everywhere. You will hear Christmas music playing in mandarin. The holiday has already developed its own Chinese characteristics,” she said.

She said the Christmas tradition is quite young in China. They don’t have Black Friday in China, so the whole month is the biggest shopping month of the year, especially on Christmas Eve.

She said Christmas is treated like St. Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day when young people choose to go out with friends, not necessarily staying with their family.

She said young people go to a cinema or karaoke bar after a big meal, or they can have a costume party. She said couples plan a romantic date on Christmas Day.

“Santa is the number one image to represent Christmas,” she said, and Santa is often dressed as a young man rather than a old man.

“Sometimes, I think it’s too commercial, because in order to attract people’s attention, Santa has become a promotion way during Christmas season sales,” said.

“Christianity is unofficial in China, but we do have a large group of baptized Christians who celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas Day,” she said. “People can find out about Christmas church services, and get together with the church members,” Wei said.

She said Christmas is all about entertainment in China. “More and more people are beginning to participate and immerse in the spirit of Christmas celebrations. It’s full of fun and excitement,” she said.

Even though most of the people in Asia are not Christian and therefore do not celebrate Christmas, Zoe Ghi, a master of music student from China, and her family do.

“In my family, what we normally do is hanging out at a coffee shop having a family gathering. We don’t really have a big celebration, because Christmas is not a national holiday. People still work and go to school,” Ghi said.

Campbellsville University has around 300 international students from the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Honduras, India, Italy, Jamaica,

Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liberia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Servia and Montenegro, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Province of China, Turkey, United Kingdom, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Vietnam.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 3,600 students offering 63 undergraduate options, 17 master’s degrees, five postgraduate areas and eight pre-professional programs. The website for complete information is