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 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.