By Chloé Margulis
The Griswold family Christmas tree, the fishnet leg lamp, and Cindy Lou-Who singing Where Are You Christmas? are just a few of the symbols of the holiday season most people are accustomed to. But what about the holiday traditions around the world? Does everyone celebrate the season of giving the same way?
The answer to that question is quite simple: No! As a little girl, I grew accustomed to a hybrid of holidays—celebrating Chanukah and Christmas. During the holiday season, we would light the candles, eat latkes, receive little gifts, watch Christmas movies, and decorate a Christmas tree, called “our lil Chanukah Bush.” Christmas Day, we would ski or snowshoe, and, at night, we would have a Thanksgiving feast all over again, roast marshmallows in our fireplace, and watch more Christmas movies.
Now that I’m older, our traditions have changed. I spend some Christmases with my friend in California.On Christmas Eve, the family dresses in gowns and tuxes, has dinner in a grand hotel’s private ballroom, rents out a suite donned with a 12-foot Christmas tree, and spends the night opening mountains of presents. That night, we drive through Candy Cane Lane in convertibles with the heat blasting. This neighborhood has gingerbread mansions overflowing with spectacular lights and abundant Santas—like the neighborhood in Christmas with the Kranks.
Holiday traditions are different wherever you go in the world. My American experience is hardly the same as every other American, just as my holiday traditions are the polar opposite of freshman Computer Science major Xinyu Sirie Zhang, an international student from China. “People in China usually don’t have Christmas,” Xinyu said. I was shocked.
However, Xinyu said that New Years is their big holiday. During New Years, people eat all the dumplings they can, wear new clothes, and venture to people’s homes to wish them a Happy New Year. “The first day of the New Year we stay at my dad’s parents’ home. The second day we stay at my mom’s parents’ home,” Xinyu explained. Families do this because on New Years there is a big TV show that the family always watches together, and it is also customary to spend New Years with all relatives.
In Norway, the traditions couldn’t be more different for senior Broadcasting major Karoline Onsrud. Norwegians celebrate Advent, the 24-day lead up to Christmas, and light a candle every Sunday in December.
“We call [Dec. 23] Little Christmas Eve,” Karoline said, as that is the day her family decorates the tree. In Norway, they broadcast a lot of Christmas shows and movies, and just like my family, Karoline’s always watches National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Karoline is also given the job of making a rich porridge. “I feel we only eat it because it’s tradition, seeing as no one in my family cares too much for it,” Karoline remarks about this porridge served with sugar, cinnamon, and a lump of butter in the center.
On Christmas Eve, the family gets dressed up and journeys to the aunt’s house where they eat stick meat, also known as lamb ribs. This mouthwatering meal is accompanied by aquavit, which helps with digestion so that you can keep eating. Christmas Eve is closed with the opening of gifts, and the days following Christmas are filled with dinner parties. Since most parts of Norway receive abundant snow, Karoline loves to spend the rest of the holiday skiing, ice skating, and sledding.
As you can see, holiday traditions are different all around the world. Each culture has remarkably different yet beautiful traditions that get passed on to all generations. It is the season to be jolly, so spend it well with your family and friends, following the traditions that have made past holiday seasons so wonderful!