Holiday Guide: International students share their holiday celebrations

Mariana Alfaro, Reporter

Students who travel internationally for the holidays note the differences between holiday celebrations here and in other countries.


Gabriela Leal, a Communication freshman from Sao Paulo, said Carnaval is the biggest holiday in Brazil, but Christmas and New Year’s Eve are celebrated just the same.

“The ‘winter holidays’ are celebrated there but it’s actually summer there so they have a totally different feel to how they are celebrated,” she said.

In fact, Leal said, her favorite part of Brazilian holidays is that they are during the summer.

“I feel like in the U.S., since it’s winter, New Year’s Eve isn’t such a big deal,” she said. “But in Brazil, the parties that night start after midnight, and it’s pretty common to watch the sunrise.”

Traditions for the holiday celebrations in Brazil include spending time with family and opening presents on Christmas Eve and welcoming the new year in huge parties usually held at the beach, where everyone wears white clothes.

“New Year’s week is something we always look forward to and start planning months ahead for, so it’s great to finally have it when the time comes,” Leal said.

South Korea

Chloe Heo, a Communication freshman from Seoul, South Korea, said the biggest holiday back in her hometown is Chuseok, which she said is similar to Thanksgiving.

“The original purpose is to celebrate what people have achieved for a year,” Heo said. “Most of the people go back to their hometown and meet their family.”

The holiday happens on the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, which is why it isn’t a winter holiday, she said.

The biggest tradition for Chuseok, Heo said, is “charye,” a memorial rite in which traditional food is prepared and prayers are offered to ancestors.

Heo said winter holidays in South Korea are similar to the United States’, except they do not involve many religious rites.

“We celebrate Christmas, but since there are a number of people who are not Christian, it is more like celebrating Christmas itself rather than its original purpose of celebrating Jesus,” she said.


Eish Sumra, a Medill freshman from London, said Christmas is the biggest holiday back home, though every year Thanksgiving becomes more popular.

“Thanksgiving is slowly becoming more and more celebrated amongst Londoners, especially those with American relations or friends,” he said. “It seems like a good excuse for good food.”

Sumra said the best part of the holidays is how London is transformed during Christmas with lights and fairs, though America takes its holidays a lot more seriously.

“Our celebrations are less flamboyant, we have less public holidays,” he said. “Americans take their holidays a lot more seriously as it is usually time to spend with family. Britain is smaller so families are not as spread out as they are here.”


Marko Jukic, a Weinberg freshman from Zagreb, Croatia, said during Christmas he eats fish and drinks spiced wine back home. He also goes to Christmas Mass at the city cathedral.

“Croatian Christmas is much more personal and less commercialized,” he said.

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