The intricacies of the Christmas holiday for International Students


Francisco Moreno

Newly elected executive board of the International Student Association.

Francisco Moreno

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—On Dec. 1st the International Student Association gathered to present their new board of directors at their annual Festive Ball event.

Some of the members of ISA celebrate the holidays in their own way.

For instance, An Dang, ISA’s new president, doesn’t celebrate this holiday in her home country of Vietnam. This is because most people are non-religious or Buddhist, so Christmas is not a major holiday.

“Students don’t get days off during Christmas, and Santa is also not as popular as he is here,” said Dang. “Because of globalization, Christmas is now more popular than it was in the past. However, we don’t celebrate at all.”

For Joseph Elias, freshman aviation major of Brazilian-Lebanese origin, things are different.

“In Brazil, we celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve and we have a big family dinner with a turkey as the main meal,” said Elias. “Then we wait until midnight to give out  the presents.”

According to Elias, Brazil isn’t the only country with its unique traditions. Lebanon also celebrates Christmas in a different way.

“In Lebanon, people visit different cities to see Christmas trees and decorations,” said Elias. “They also attend holiday festivals in hill towns.”

The new ISA secretary, Romaura Rojas Pena, a native from the Dominican Republic explains that in her country, Christmas revolves around good food.

Among the most famous dishes are Moro, a mix of rice, beans, and vegetables;  Mangú, or mashed plantains; and for dessert, choco-flan, a chocolate covered with juicy flan on top.

Besides enjoying good food, Rojas Pena explains the religious importance of the Christmas tradition.

“Christmas is really important because my country is very religious,” said Pena. “Every December you can see lights covering the houses while angels are hung in any space they can fit. It’s always a big celebration full of stories and jokes, the meal always started with a family member going off on a long prayer while everyone else has grumbling tummies.”

The author of this article, Francisco Moreno, also has some interesting traditions.

“As an international student from Colombia, we celebrate Christmas Eve,” said Moreno. “Colombians usually host a big party, where we dance and eat snacks until midnight. Once the clock hits midnight, the family hugs and wishes Feliz Navidad to each other. Then we proceed to eat a big meal together. People are allowed to open presents after eating, and the gifts don’t come from Santa, but instead, they are brought to the house by baby Jesus.”