Celebrating the holidays all around the world

With Christmas and New Year’s Eve around the corner, how do UT students from all around the world spend this holiday season? Eight international students talk about their traditions back home and their plans. ‘Some people even repaint their gates or walls to make sure the house looks nice.’

Kiro Sami (22), Creative Technology student from Egypt

Christmas in Egypt is not a huge celebration since it’s a Muslim country and the majority of the citizens are Muslims. In some places there are Christmas-y lights and decorations. We celebrate Christmas twice, on the 25th of December and on the 7th of January; Catholics and Orthodox. Usually we go to church on both days and have a huge family gathering with lots of meat since we should be fasting from the 25th of November. After the family gatherings I go out to get drunk with my friends. Unfortunately, this holiday I will celebrate Christmas only once on the 25th of December because I’m coming back here on the 5th of January. For New Year’s Eve, I’m going to Gouna. It’s a paradise by the red sea coast and usually the weather is warm during the day and a little cold at night. It’s all about the beach and clubbing.’

Andrew Heath (20), Computer Science student from England

In England, there is a very set meal that must be had on Christmas day. It consists of several key items. One of the most important of these being Brussel sprouts. They have become famous in our family (as in most people’s) for giving everyone gas for the rest of the day. Aside from turkey, another key festive element is the Christmas cracker. This is basically a cardboard tube that you pull – it is more glamorous than it sounds – and it makes a cracking sound, hence the name. Inside there are some dad level jokes as well as some fetching hats, like the one I am wearing in the picture. This holiday I will be heading home to family to celebrate Christmas with all of the previously described traditions. After Christmas I will be heading back to the Enschede to experience the infamous New Years celebrations at the Vestingbar.’

Manol Krastev (23), Psychology student from Bulgaria

‘I try to spend as much time as possible at home during the holidays because I don't go there that that often anymore. In Bulgaria we always get presents on the evening of the 24th and on the 25th we're seeing everyone from the family and eat a lot. I think we have a really typical Christmas.’

Diego Picardo (24), Sustainable Energy Technology student from Spain

‘In Spain, all members of the family get together to enjoy this holy festivity. It is very common to go downtown to enjoy the fancy and beautiful lights. The dinner of the 24th is very important, the family gets together to have a delightful dinner, usually with turkey. On the 25th everyone gets together to have lunch. Sweets called ‘turrón’ and ‘Roscon de Reyes’ are typical for the holidays, with the latter being eaten the 5th and 6th of January in memory of the three wise kings. The 31st at midnight it’s a big tradition to eat twelve grapes to start the new year in proper fashion. I’m happy that I go back there to do the same also in this year.’

Filip Rozborski (27), exchange student from Poland

‘We celebrate Christmas Eve pretty intensely, starting with a supper when the first star starts to shine. What I find the most amusing is the food. The dinner table has to be laid out with exactly twelve dishes, although I don’t know the reason for this. Another interesting thing is that there is always one vacant place at the table with the cutlery laid out to honour those who have passed away. This place does not only signify this but is meant for someone who does not have a place to be or anyone to celebrate Christmas Eve with. It symbolizes that we are all one family. After supper, the whole family reads a Bible text and wishes everybody the best. This is followed by opening of presents and Mass at midnight. On the day of Christmas, we visit other family members and have a meal together. I will celebrate the holidays this year with my family.’

Antonia-Agnes Balint (23), Chemical Engineering student from Romania

‘I normally love to make sweets with my mom, like gingerbread cookies and a traditional sweet called Cozonac. On Christmas Eve, kids sing specific songs about the birth of Jesus. Sometimes, they also make a star and carry a figurine of Jesus in the manger to different houses. This signifies the welcoming of Jesus in the house. In return, kids get oranges, sweets and money. We also wrap sweets and hang them on the tree. But Christmas for me is also about being together, chilling and watching a Christmas movie. We have several New Year beliefs and one of them is eating fish: a creature that only moves forward. This implies that we should only look forward without looking back at the past. We also carry some rice in our pockets, and we sprinkle some on the people we meet. This resembles prosperity. This time I won’t be celebrating the holidays with my family in Romania and I will greatly miss them.’

Ashik Vincent Palathingal (23), Mechanical Engineering student from India

‘We hang bright and colourful stars in front of our house to resemble the star that guided the three wise men to where Jesus was born. Besides the motive for winning the prize for the best decorated home in the neighbourhood, most members of the family happily involve themselves in decorating while mothers prepare the food. On Christmas Eve, we go out with friends and family to the different houses in the neighbourhood carolling along the way. After covering several houses, we gather and have a lucky draw of different Christmas presents followed by midnight mass and more singing and eating. It usually ends very late into the night around 4am. On Christmas morning, the whole family gathers for a nice breakfast and then we set out to relatives’ or friends’ houses. This will be my first Christmas away from my family and honestly, I don’t have anything planned.’

Siân Hallsworth (21), Advanced Technology student from Barbados

‘The first part of the holiday is all about getting everything prepared. There is a spring cleaning vibe and everyone gets everything spic and span. From new curtains and tablecloths to lights and decorations inside and outside the house. Some people even repaint their gates or walls to make sure the house looks nice. The main thing for Christmas is a big lunch together with the family and lots of food. We usually celebrate boxing day on the 26th with hangouts, parties and picnics on the beach. This year I’m back home so I get to help with the cleaning up and Christmas decorating, eating lots of food with my family and then partying on the beach with my friends from secondary school for boxing day.’