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Four Christmas Traditions from Around the World

We talked with four of our teachers to find out how they celebrate Christmas in their part of the world.

Caroline, Northeastern United States

Caroline Gunning, our English teacher, from Connecticut, USA, says, "My family's Christmas tradition as a kid was opening a gift of new winter/Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve."

She adds, "I think it was ideal for pictures on Christmas morning!"

Here, Caroline shares her Christmas greetings with you.

Elena, Northeastern Italy

In Milan in northeastern Italy, Elena Gamba, our Italian and English teacher, writes, "Christmas Eve was never a big thing in my family. Usually, on the 24th my father and I go to see some friends and we have panettone and sparkling white wine (spumante) and we exchange presents.

Christmas Day was always at one of my aunt's house for lunch and dinner too.

In terms of food...oh god, where do I start?

First, we always have a huge antipasto. Then we have primo and it is usually lasagne or crespelle (crespelle are savoury crepe). Then roast and veggies. Wine...a lot of red wine. Coffee. Panettone or/and pandoro with cream.

And then what we call "ammazza café". It's a liquor we have after coffee: it can be grappa, depends from what part of Italy you are.

After all of these, you basically die on the sofa."

Grappa is the choice of ammazza café in northeastern Italy where Elena's dad is from.

Elena says, "It's strong and if it's pure I don't really enjoy it, but you can buy flavored one: honey, mountain herbs and It's much better."

Elena shares her Christmas wishes for you.

Lilia, Central Coast and Southwestern Peru

Lilia Medina Mori, our Spanish and English teacher, lives in Lima, Peru on the central coast but is originally from Arequipa, in southern Peru.

She writes, "I must say that the one thing that is common in all the country is the gathering on December 24th. Most families and friends go to church at 10 pm to not only listen to the mass but also to enjoy a little play about Nativity."

"In Lima, a group of people portrays different scenes before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. Sometimes, children dressed as Mary and Joseph lead a parade of other children dressed as shepherds, angels, and the three kings.

At midnight, families celebrate Nativity by having a big Christmas meal. It is mostly turkey and pork with all types of rice, apple or sweet potato purée, and salads.

My family loves ensalada de pallares, lima bean salad. Some people gather around the Christmas tree to open their gifts while fireworks are being also displayed.

Some families keep the original Christmas tradition and encourage their kids to wait for Christmas day to open their presents, on December 25th. Our highlight, on Christmas Day, is breakfast as we all look forward to having some delicious hot chocolate and panettone.

In other cities people enjoy all sorts of sweet loaves of bread, some of them called guaguas, which are made in different shapes, sizes and with Christmas decorations nowadays.

My family and I live in Lima but apart from two of my nephews, we all were born in other cities.

For instance, in Chachapoyas which is a town in northern Peru, in a valley surrounded by cloud forest, all Nativities are decorated by the huarango tree, whose scent is representative of Christmas.

Children dressed as shepherds are encouraged to dance while singing Christmas songs during the masses in main churches.

In Arequipa, the sixth-largest city in Peru which is located in the southwestern part of the country, on Christmas Day people visit churches to appreciate all different displays of Nativity. Some people dress up as shepherds and go around the cities dancing to typical Christmas songs wearing colorful clothes, too."

Lilia sends her Christmas greetings to you.

Jackie, Southern United States

As for me, I'm originally from Virginia on the southern East Coast of the U.S. Through the years we've gone from strictly Southern American Christmas traditions to adding Sicilian traditions.

On Christmas Eve, my mom and I always have seafood. That's because my first boyfriend's family was Sicilian American, so they celebrate the Festa dei Sette Pesci (The Feast of the Seven Fish). My mom and I loved celebrating Christmas Eve with them and eating a lot of delicious seafood, so we kept that tradition for the two of us.

This year I'm going to learn how to make cioppino, it's this seafood stew from Italians in San Francisco. My mom and I usually have crabs for Christmas Eve, and that's delicious just on its own.

We eat around 6 p.m., get the presents ready to put under the tree, and then watch a Christmas movie together.

When we wake up early on Christmas morning, we open our stockings while we wait for our traditional Christmas breakfast casserole to bake. Then we have breakfast and after we open our gifts.

Later in the day, we have a big dinner of mustard-glazed ham, scalloped potatoes, and greens. This is a pretty typical Southern dinner for Christmas. I love eating the ham with scrambled eggs every morning after Christmas. Yum yum yum.

Here are my Christmas greetings for you all!

May you have a wonderful holiday enjoying your own Christmas traditions. Free free to share your traditions with us in the comments!


Jackie Donaldson is the owner and director of Amidon Studios Language Studies. She started Amidon Studios in 2017 after managing a language institute in Lima, Peru for six years. She's taught students from all over the world while living in Peru, Mexico, and the U.S. When she's not working or studying, you'll find her gardening, playing with her cat Frankie, swimming, baking, and exploring the globe.

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