Christmas from all over the world: How do people in other countries celebrate it?
I experienced Christmas in Germany the first time in 2014. I was visiting my boyfriend then, who is my husband today. His Bavarian grandmother cooked traditional food and we sang Christmas songs. We celebrated with my husband’s great-grandfather, who was exactly 100 years old then. Since he died, we are experimenting a lot instead of having traditional celebrations. Last year we had a vegetarian Christmas with a giant mushroom for each person. The year before we had a present lottery: Everyone had to sing or dance or something like that to deserve one of the presents. In Russia, we do not celebrate Christmas on the 24th of December. However, how we spend New Year’s Eve is similar. It’s like a combination of ‘Silvester’ and Christmas in Germany. We eat a lot of food and spend time with the family. A typical dish is Olivier salad, which includes potatoes, sausage, cucumber, peas and mayonnaise, amongst other ingredients. Before midnight, we look at the President's speech, which is a typical and important tradition in Russia. At 12 o’clock we drink champagne and clink glasses. Afterwards, we go out with our friends and party!
Anastasia, International Business (Bachelor, 5th Semester)
I'm from Northern Syria and have been in Germany for four years. Before my studies, I completed the HTW-Integra program, a course to prepare refugees for university. Without this help I wouldn’t have made it. I am a Muslim Kurd, but I do not live religiously. I have also experienced and celebrated Christmas in Syria. There are so many religions in Syria and many Christians, too. In Germany my girlfriend, our little daughter and I celebrate with my girlfriend's family. She’s German. When we spent Christmas together with the whole family for the first time, I could hardly speak German and my girlfriend had to translate everything. That was very difficult for everyone. Fortunately, this is no longer a problem; I speak pretty good German now. Playing cards with my mother-in-law has become my favourite Christmas tradition. I'm also really looking forward to giving my daughter the bike she wished for.
Redi, Business Computing (Bachelor, 3rd Semester)
I'm from Venezuela, but my family members live everywhere in different places. Every year for Christmas, we meet somewhere else. This time, some members of my family and I will meet in Rome. I particularly look forward to the food! There’s a special Venezuelan Christmas dish we prepare, it’s called ‘hallaca’ and very delicious. It’s corn dough stuffed with pork, olives, raisins, almonds and more. My grandmother is the best at coordinating its preparation. Everybody helps and she’s coordinating everything in the kitchen. For the last three years, we actually couldn’t make hallaca. The economic situation wasn’t very good in Venezuela. I hope we can make it this year. But it’s not so important in the end, family and friends and everyone being together is what matters.
Pedro, Construction and Real Estate Management (Master, 3rd Semester)
I’m from Turkey and have been in Germany for about a year. We don't celebrate Christmas, but we have several similar festivities. At the Sugar Feast, for example, the whole family comes together. We spend time with each other and eat delicious food. With the Sugar Feast, we end the month of fasting. We don't give each other presents, but grandparents usually give the children some money. This year I go home to Turkey over Christmas, but last year I spent the holidays here with my cousin and his family. He has been living in Germany for a long time and properly celebrates Christmas. We were all eating and taking a walk before, that was very nice. Gifts seem to be very important for Christmas in Germany. I got so many presents!
Zeynep, Business Administration and Engineering (Bachelor, 1st Semester)
Once a year, international students of HTW Berlin celebrate together at "Christmas international", organised by the International Office and the Department of Inclusive University/Accessibility.
Interviews: Katrin Albaum © HTW Berlin, Press Relations Office
Photos: Alexander Rentsch