Christmas Celebrations From around the World – Reflections from CNA’s Staff

December 28, 2021

One of the wonderful things about working at the Center for New Americans is getting to interact with people from all different countries and cultures. In addition to our students and clients, we also have a diverse staff from many different countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. Read below as a few of our staff members share Christmas traditions from their countries!

The Christkind, who brings gifts to German children on Christmas Eve.

Teacher Silke Hansen (Germany) – “In Germany, our main celebration day is on December 24th. In my family, Christmas Eve is when we put up the Christmas tree and we always had a real tree! Most workers have the 25th and 26th off to visit with family and friends (usually family on the 25th and friends on the 26th).  Presents are delivered not by Santa Claus but by an angelic figure called Christkind on Christmas Eve. In my family, after dinner on December 24th, my siblings and I would go upstairs to our bedrooms while Christkind (AKA: mom and dad) put gifts under the tree. After this, they would ring the doorbell and run upstairs to our rooms asking, “Did you hear the door? Do you think the Christkind came to visit?” Then we would race downstairs to open our gifts! We usually ate a light supper on Christmas Eve and had our big meal on Christmas Day. We normally ate Rouladen (meat stuffed with onions, pickles and bacon), Mehlknoedel (dumplings) and red cabbage with gravy.”

An igitenge worn by many Congolese women.

Caseworker Tez Kiruhura (Democratic Republic of the Congo) – “Christmas back home is different than Christmas here. In my family, we eat fufu (a porridge made from cassava), rice, lots of meat (goat, beef and chicken) and we drink soda and milk. We gather together as a family to eat and give thanks to God for the blessings in our lives. It’s traditional that everyone gets new clothes on Christmas. Women usually wear an igitenge (dress) made of bright, multicolored fabric and matching head scarf made of same fabric. There is not always money for gifts but if there is, we exchange them on Christmas. Going to church is an important tradition. We go to church on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday closest to Christmas. It’s always three days because that represents the resurrection of Jesus. There is usually a guest preacher for these church services.”

Shoes stuffed with surprises after a visit from St. Nicolas.

Caseworker Lilly Jasarovic (Bosnia/Serbia) – “Christmas is similar to what it is here in America. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the January 7th, not December 25th. Bosnia is very religiously diverse and it’s common for Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims to go to church to celebrate on January 7th. For Christmas dinner, the meal always starts with plum brandy. Many people eat beef and noodle soup, cabbage rolls, Trappista cheese, pickled vegetables, strudels and cakes. One Orthodox tradition is to make a special loaf of bread with a coin, a heart-shaped token, a tree branch and other objects placed inside. Families bake and then cut the bread and whoever finds a certain object is supposed to receive a special blessing in the New Year. The coin brings success, the heart brings love and the branch brings health. Another fun tradition that children enjoy is St. Nicolas’ Day on December 19. According to tradition, on this day, Saint Nicolas leaves sweets and small toys in the shoes of children.”

Kate Harris  ESL Instructor & Career Navigator 

LSS Center for New Americans

P:  605-731-2000  | F:  605-731-2059

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100  Sioux Falls, SD 57103


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