Students reflect on Christmas customs

Different traditions in Germany, India, Kuwait


Mary Stempky

German III students show off their homemade shoes on Saint Nicholas Day.

Mary Stempky, Reporter

Every year after the turkey has been cooked and the pumpkin pie eaten, Christmas songs enter the radio waves. Prayers for a white Christmas begin and students become eager for a time to relax over break.

For Catholics, it is time to celebrate the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas, however not been around as long as Other holidays on the church such as Easter.

According to theology teacher Mrs. Sara Koehler, the early Christians focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was not until the fourth century that Christians started discussions over when he was born. “(The early Christians wanted) to show evidence that Jesus was God from the beginning,” Koehler said

Despite this, Christmas stands as a popular holiday, but where one lives in the world may determine how he or she celebrates this festivity

According to German teacher Mr. Joshua Payne, in Germany some traditions are similar to those here. Both Americans and Germans typically display Christmas trees in their homes. However, this is done a little differently in Germany. “Most German families don’t put up their Christmas trees until Christmas Eve, and Germans prefer to use real candles on their trees, Payne said.

According to junior Tim de Boer, who is a German exchange student, trees in his country are typically real. “Some families (go) out in  the forest to search for for trees,” he said.

According de Boer, Germans focus most of their celebrating on the 24th; however, Dec. 25 and Dec. 26 are national holidays, and the schools are closed. “Most families on those days (get together),” de Boer said.

Payne said that many German families also attend church on Christmas Day.

Another facet of the German holiday involves Christmas markets, something that is becoming more popular in the United States, as Payne noted that such a market has opened in Carmel this year.

Panye said that Christmas markets are a long-held tradition dating back to about the 15th century. “Vendors (sell) local arts and crafts. They also have food and mulled wine,” Payne said.

Besides Christmas markets, Germans celebrate another holiday that is similar to Christmas, Saint Nicholas Day. Payne said that the kids leave their shoes out in order to receive chocolate or similar sweets. Saint Nicholas has a counterpart in Germany named Knech Ruprecht, who has a sack full of coal, rocks and switches.

While celebrations in Germany are part of the public sphere, that is not always the case in other countries.

According to computer science teacher Ms. Ria Pereira, in Kuwait where she grew up, Christmas festivities were limited. “(Celebrations)  had to remain within the church premises,” Periera said. However, the holiday was still practiced inside homes and observed at her school.

Pereira said that her school in Kuwait was religiously diverse. “(Students) were encouraged to celebrate each other’s holy days,” Pereira said.

In India and Kuwait, Pereira said that sweets would be made and exchanged. “(People) always went to midnight Mass (and) to someone’s house to celebrate,” Pereira said.

This also happens in India.

According to senior Kartik Bandal, in India Christians celebrate Mass at midnight. Also it is common in India to decorate banana or mango trees. “When people come outside they are given a gift from (the) church,” Bandal said.

Bandal said the dinner is prepared for the family and they come together to eat. “There’s wine and butter chicken and Indian bread,” Bandal said.

Much like here, stores discount merchandise. Bandal said that malls are decorated and offer big sales. “If you shop over a (certain) limit, (employees) give you vouchers, and you get a free trip to another country,” Bandal said.

In India, Christmas always starts with a act of kindness. Bandal said, “Christians wake up on Christmas early morning and got to orphanages and donate clothes or food.’