Yuletide Traditions Vary From Different Cultures

Isabella Lilley, Staff Writer

It begins with the first feeling of warmth, walking into a heated house. Santa-hat clad folks holding buckets for donation collections ring bells at the entrance to every grocery store. The sweet scent of cinnamon tickles the opening of your nose and mugs of hot cocoa warm the palms of your hands while soothening the inside of your throat. Full tummies end in long naps, and white clouds blanketing the ground become dented with pieces of grass poking through the surface. Blushed cheeks and cold tips of noses grin at the sight, smell and feel of Christmas.

According to Harris Interactive, Christmas is voted as America’s favorite holiday for all ages. French teacher Stephanie Olson is no exception; the France native recalls her favorite part of Christmas in France as being the holiday markets.

“It’s like a flea market, but better. [It] tastes like Christmas, smells like Christmas, I love it.”

Shoppers can buy and enjoy many native foods on the go while traveling around the rest of the market. A popular drink served is Gluhwein, a concoction similar to apple cider, only served warm. “I miss it. It’s very European,” Mrs. Olson said.

Along with the market food, a popular dessert made during the Christmas season is bûche  de Noël, a Christmas log, or sponge cake. It’s similar to angel food cake, but is rolled into a log shape, smothered with icing, and sprinkled with sugar.

Although Olson enjoys American culture, she will never fully disconnect with France and its traditions. “I miss it. [I will] try to stick to traditions even though I’m here in America.”

For junior Juan Perez, Christmas brings lots of noise and a large family congregating at his house. “It’s pretty crazy. And loud.”

Many of the same Mexican traditions still exist for Christmas festivities in Perez’s family. His grandmother and mom are responsible for the cooking and make dishes such as tamales, and a stew called posole, a corn soup with pork and rice.

Perez and his cousins play board games and watch movies to pass time. When it comes to music, Perez says there is a gap between the generations. “The older people listen to Mexican music. The teenagers listen to American music.”

With the food and music customs, there are traditions Perez and his family have continued for generations. “We do this religious thing where half of us go outside and pray for each other, and for the other half inside; just like the pilgrims did.”

The beginning of Christmas means it’s time for a ride for sophomore Joey Wallace. “Every year my family and I drive around town and look at the Christmas decorations people have put up around their homes.”

When it comes to Christmas Day traditions, Wallace has his favorites. “My favorite scent of Christmas is the freshly made ham, my favorite thing to eat is my mom’s gooey butter cookies, and my all-time favorite Christmas movie is ‘A Christmas Story.’”

Just as the holidays brings at-home traditions, there is one ritual that is just as habitual as eating cookies and playing board games. Even with the Christmas Day enjoyments, Wallace is not one to say no to getting a head start on purchasing presents. “I love Black Friday shopping. There are so many great deals.”

Like Wallace, junior Abigail Miller and her family spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping for all the bargains marking the beginning of the holiday festivities. “I love to Black Friday shop. But I don’t shop on Thursday because I think that’s breaking tradition.”

Miller spends her favorite holiday with her family, staying in the area where most of her family lives. “[We] usually get together and bake. We also go to this little live theatre in Lebanon and see a ‘Christmas Carol,’” Miller said.

In addition to the family traditions, Miller is a fan of most aspects of the holidays. “I love the cold and the snow. Winter is my favorite season. I love the smell of vanilla and cinnamon, [and] I’m a fan of hot chocolate and apple cider.”

It becomes difficult to appreciate the little things when such large scale items demand our attention, especially at the closing of the year. With this, Miller reminds us of the power this time has. “I love Christmas and the holiday season because it brings people together. It’s a time to set apart differences and to just love and spend time with one another.”