New and old

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents cel­e­brate Christ­mas tra­di­tions in Amherst


In­ter­na­tional stu­dents en­joy hol­i­day, new year ex­pe­ri­ences in Amherst.

Each year, dozens of stu­dents from through­out the world travel thou­sands of miles to at­tend Amherst Re­gional High School.

Five of those in­ter­na­tional stu­dents re­cently talked about the dif­fer­ence be­tween Christ­mas in Amherst and Christ­mas in their home towns.


What jumped out first and fore­most among all of the stu­dents was the dec­o­ra­tions on the homes.

“In Ger­many, there’s some lights in some houses, but here ev­ery­body has lights and ev­ery­body has those gi­ant bal­loon an­i­mals,” said Katha­rina Dorner, a Grade 10 stu­dent from Berlin.

Laila Galli, a Grade 11 stu­dent from Goiâ­nia, Brazil, agrees.

“They take Christ­mas much more se­ri­ous here. Ev­ery­where has dec­o­ra­tions, ev­ery­where has lights, ev­ery­where has ev­ery­thing,” said Galli. “There’s not as many dec­o­ra­tions in Brazil and it’s not as se­ri­ous.”

Zwee Dao, a Grade 12 stu­dent from Hanoi, Viet­nam, had never seen snow un­til com­ing to Amherst.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen snow, and the dec­o­ra­tions are beau­ti­ful,” said Dao.

Vito Sedl­mayer, a Grade 11 stu­dent from Mu­nich, Ger­many, says they don’t get much snow in Mu­nich.

“What is very spe­cial for me is the snow, be­cause we had snow like this in Ger­many but it’s gone be­cause of the cli­mate change. We have to go to the Alps to go sled­ding.”


Eat­ing a turkey meal with all the trim­mings was some­thing new to all the stu­dents.

“We eat duck on Christ­mas with pota­toes of all kinds, and we have cran­ber­ries and rice pud­ding,” said Balt­hazar Berg, a Grade 11 stu­dent from Aarhus, Den­mark. “Some­times you get the rice pud­ding warm with cin­na­mon and sugar.”

In Brazil, Galli’s fam­ily has pork and rice, and some­times they put raisins in the rice.

“It doesn’t make sense be­cause raisins in rice is bad,” said Galli.

“I hon­estly like raisins in rice,” added Berg in protest.

“That’s for old peo­ple. Only old peo­ple put raisins in their rice,” said Galli. “You will put raisins in your grand­mother’s rice be­cause you re­spect your grand­mother.”

Sedl­mayer has a Bavar­ian Christ­mas meal.

“My fam­ily, and a lot of my friends’ fam­i­lies, like deer or duck on Christ­mas Eve, with cran­ber­ries and stuff like that,” said Sedl­mayer.

Dorner’s Christ­mas din­ner has Rus­sian tra­di­tions.

“I’m half Rus­sian, so on Christ­mas Eve we eat fish, and on Christ­mas Day we usu­ally have duck,” said Dorner. “My dad’s a re­ally good cook, so he al­ways makes a big meal for ev­ery­body with potato salad and stuff.”

Santa Claus

Santa isn’t called Santa Claus in Ger­many.

“We have the Christ Child. It’s an an­gel kind of thing. It’s ba­si­cally Santa Claus but it’s an an­gel,” said Dorner.

“My mom used to have a bell and she rang it and told ev­ery­body to go into an­other room be­cause the Christ Child is com­ing, and my sis­ter and me would get ex­cited,” she added. “My mom would go in an­other room and when she rang the bell again we’d go out and see all the presents.”

In Den­mark, Santa Claus is called the same name as he is here.

“We have a tra­di­tion where we leave rice pud­ding and Christ­mas beer in the loft of the house and Santa eats it. I don’t know if that’s a Dan­ish thing but it’s a tra­di­tion in our fam­ily,” said Berg. “When I was eight years old I put it up there, and one day I came out and saw my dad on the lad­der to the up­stairs sit­ting with a bowl of rice pud­ding and a beer.”

All the stu­dents thanked their host fam­i­lies for their kind­ness and for treat­ing them like fam­ily.


In­ter­na­tional stu­dents who cel­e­brated Christ­mas in Amherst for the first time this year in­cluded, from left, Laila Galli, Katha­rina Dorner, Vito Sedl­mayer, Balt­hazar Berg and Zwee Dao.

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