The econometrics programme consists of many international students from all over the world. This means that we all celebrate Christmas in different ways. Similarly, the Estimator committee also comprises of students from different parts of the world. We can't go around asking everyone how they celebrate Christmas, but since our own committee is so diverse, we thought we would write about our own individual Christmas traditions. From Brazil to Qatar and everywhere in between, here are our Christmas traditions!
My uncle and aunt live in the beautiful (yet very doubtful) Dutch province of Limburg. Since my uncle is a fanatic home cook and loves to serve us extensive dinners (more than 5 courses is completely normal), he always invites the entire family at his house for both Christmas days. Because Limburg is very far away, we (my parents, sister, grandma and I) always spend the week of Christmas in a cosy bungalow close to my uncle’s place. We spend Christmas Day and Boxing Day at my uncle’s house, where we eat, play games and watch holiday movies (and Pietje Bell, which is a Christmas classic!). You might ask yourself if this yearly routine ever gets boring and the answer is no. We have a very close family but don’t see each other that often, because we are all spread out over (and outside) the country usually. With Christmas, it is great to spend time together, play silly games and cuddle with my little cousins. Can’t wait for the end of December!
For almost every year of my life, I’ve spent Christmas back home in Aruba. Even though you would think it couldn’t feel very Christmassy there because it’s always hot and sunny, the Christmas vibes are most definitely present! The entire island is decorated for Christmas and almost every roundabout has some type of Christmas lights. My parents and I usually drive around the island many nights and take in the beauty and feel the Christmas vibes. On Christmas day we usually go to the beach, because why not ;). This way we have our own type of ‘white’ Christmas on the sandy beach. In the evening we usually eat out for dinner, because most restaurants are open for the tourists. Afterwards we usually go on a long drive (which is like an hour since the island is so small) and we drive up to the very tip of the island to see the cas di luz(house of lights), which is a house on a hill which is entirely decorated in Christmas lights and we take a bunch of photos there. A local Aruban Christmas tradition is gaita which is comparable to Christmas carols. We find a location where there is a gaita band playing and listen to the amazing music. Last year was the first time in my life that I wasn’t back home to celebrate Christmas, so I’m excited to be going back this year to celebrate the holidays with my friends and family!
Modern Turkish lifestyle bears a strong resemblance to Western countries in many regards. The celebration of the new year is no exception. The strongest sign of Christian influence on our New Year traditions is the New Year’s Tree, which we call Yılbaşı Ağacı. It looks the same as a Christmas tree with Christmas ornaments, but it’s there to celebrate the coming of the new year instead of Christmas. It is also a tradition to exchange gifts on New Year’s Eve, although we call these gifts “New Year gifts” instead of Christmas gifts.
While my family and I do not celebrate Christmas, my birthday is only two days apart from Christmas, so luckily I am always receiving gifts during the winter holiday. During winter holidays I usually go home to Qatar, where my family currently resides. The weather is perfect at this time of the year, a nice breezy 23 degrees. On average, the weather in Qatar is usually 34 degrees at its highest, so the breezy 23 degrees is a perfect time to be outside. Often, during winter break my family goes to the beach or we often host barbeques. We also like to make use of the weather to go on a religious pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. It’s very nice to be away from the real world and focus on ourselves, on how to be a better person. Though ever since I started university we have not had time to do that. On the other hand, it’s always nice to be back home because all my friends are also coming back home, so I guess more presents for me!
Every other Christmas I alternate between spending my holidays in The Netherlands and Brazil. When in the Netherlands, I usually spend first Christmas Day (December 25th) with my immediate family, and second Christmas Day (December 26th) with my stepmom's family. We have a big dinner and exchange small gifts. For New Year's I will usually go somewhere with friends. When in Brazil, my immediate family and I used to travel to Rio during Christmas. Although I lived in São Paulo for most of my life, my family is mostly from Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil, it is common to celebrate Christmas eve (24th of December) with your extended family, and Christmas Day (December 25th) with your immediate family. For Christmas eve we have a big dinner and exchange gifts, and for Christmas day we exchange more gifts and spend the rest of the day at the beach. For a while, we would go to Copacabana Beach watch the fireworks during New Years (Reveillon), but now watching it on TV is enough.
I always spend Christmas with my family back in Brussels. My dad usually cooks a lot of traditional Bulgarian dishes even though we are only three people (and a very cute dog <3) and we normally start the day with a very abundant Christmas breakfast followed by a long walk in the forest with my dog. We then spend the rest of the day watching movies and being very unproductive (as one should be). Several years ago, we also started a tradition where we would spend several days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve in London. I’ve always found Christmas lights magical and London has to be one of the most beautiful cities during this season. When it comes to New Year’s Eve, my high school friends (from Brussels) and I normally throw a party and celebrate it together.
Enjoy your holidays and Merry Christmas!