First American holiday

Foreign exchange students celebrate Christmas, New Year’s away from home


Paige Williamson, Business Editor

Celebrating the holiday’s away from home this year, foreign exchange students Annika Pertegato and Alessandra Brizi are getting to experience their first American holiday season. While many of the holidays are the same, there are some differences that make the holidays a little harder for them.

Christmas for Annika and her family is celebrated not as it is known religiously, but more as a day to spend with family, eat food and give presents.

“I’m not ready to not get to see all of my relatives and to be with them like I have for the past 17 years of my life,” Annika said. “I will be a little homesick, but I have a wonderful host family, plus Anca and Elia (last year’s foreign exchange students) will be here to visit, so it will be awesome.”

Alessandra and her family celebrate Christmas by starting off the season with a family tradition.

“One of my traditions is that every year on Dec. 8, my family and I put up our Christmas decorations,” Alessandra said. “My dad has always told me I need to decorate the tree since I was little.”

For New Year’s, Annika and Alessandra both follow some of the American traditions, one being eating black-eyed peas. They also have some of their own, like wearing the color red.

“On New Year’s, we wear red because it is a symbol of good luck,” Alessandra said. “Also, my friends and I have a tradition where at midnight we jump into either a pool or the ocean, which ever is closest.”

On Jan. 6 they celebrate a holiday called ‘Epiphany,’ also known as the twelfth day of Christmas. Those who celebrate Epiphany feast upon food with family and friends and fill the children’s stockings with fruits and candies but mainly oranges.

“Epiphany is a holiday where we hang up stockings and wait for a witch to come and give us a surprise,” Annika said. “The witch will leave oranges and candy for the good children and coal for the children that were bad.”

This holiday season is full of new experiences, from being apart of new traditions to spending it away from family and friends back home.

“This holiday season is when the homesickness is going to start kicking in, especially on Christmas when being with family is a big part of the holiday,” Alessandra said. “New Year’s is going to be harder because I spend it every year with my friends, and this year I will not be able to.”