Students and faculty reflect on different Christmas cultures

Hannah Ledford, Contributing Writer

The globally known holiday of Christmas is celebrated in many ways that are unique to different cultures.

The definition that America has for Christmas is not the same as it is for other countries such as Brazil or Thailand.

OBU is privileged to host many international students; as a result, the professors and students receive the chance to learn about various Christmas traditions.

While Americans focus on decorations, presents, music and food, few of these characteristics are shared by other cultures.

No tradition is better than another; however, the combination of traditions allows our diverse community to celebrate Christmas together in a new way.

christmas-chapel-by-alyssa
Alyssa Sperrazza / The Bison

Friday, December 2, the foreign language department presented a multi-cultural Christmas event in the Maybe Suite. This event depicted how different cultures celebrate Christmas through their different songs and traditions.

Vincent Ngafeeson of Cameroon, Africa said one of the biggest differences he sees between his Christmas and America’s Christmas is the spiritual focus.

“Typically, Christmas holiday where I come from is actually generally celebrated by everyone like here, but it’s really emphasized on Jesus,” he said.

He said that his favorite part about the holiday in his country is the sense of togetherness with his whole community.

“Most of the time Christmas Celebrations where I come from it’s always a gathering of a large group of people,” Ngafeeson said. “I simply mean a people of a particular neighborhood or a people of a particular tribe just grouping.”

Africa’s Christmas not only contrasts with America’s Christmas, but also with the country of Brazil. Dr. Chiareli, professor of sociology and intercultural studies from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, describes Christmas as a time for those who are fortunate to care for the less fortunate of the community.

“On the 25th [of December], it’s not so much about the birth of Christ and Christmas day but about helping the poor.”

Chiareli said even the day of the year of which Christmas is celebrated is different.

“In Brazil, the more important Christmas date is not the 25th, Christmas day, but rather Christmas Eve,” he said. “That’s when you have the big meal and you would also prepare a turkey.”

Some of Chiareli’s favorite memories are so unique to Brazil that other countries do not have the chance to experience Christmas as they do. For instance, Chiareli recalls swimming in a part of the Amazon River on Christmas eve night since December is during Brazil’s summer time.

“We would wait for the tide to come,” he said. “We would actually bathe in the water at like one or two in the morning.”

Abigail Mann, a daughter of a missionary family who served in Thailand, tells of her experiences of Christmas during her time out of the states.

Her memories relate more to America than Brazil or Cameroon; however, there are still noticeable differences.

“They don’t celebrate actual Christmas,” she said. “it’s more like they’re getting ready for the new year.”

She said that although there is much joy and celebration during the holiday time, the meaning is not spiritual for non-Christians.

“It’s a happy time, but they don’t know the true meaning of it.”

Chiareli says the main difference he sees between America’s Christmas and Brazil’s Christmas is money and gift giving was a bigger deal in the states.

“From what I remember, just much less emphasis on the shopping and getting all decked out,” he said “Less emphasis on being busy buying things.”

Vincent Ngafeeson shared what Christians all around the world view Christmas as: a celebration of the birth of Christ.

“I think there’s a deeper thing about Christmas; that deeper thing is Jesus.”

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