Christmas around the world

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Magdalena Dutkowska stands in front of a traditional Polish Christmas tabernacle as a six year old. Courtesy of Magdalena Dutkowska ’18

From eating 12-course meals to sledding down sand dunes instead of snowy hills, many Convent of the Sacred Heart families experience the holiday season with a variety of unique Christmas traditions around the world. 
Freshman Magdalena Dutkowska lived in Poland for three years and still continues to celebrate traditional Polish Christmas customs in her new hometown of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Some of the celebrations include enjoying 12 courses during her family’s Christmas Eve dinner, each of which represent the 12 apostles. In addition, her family sets the table for one extra person in case a left out family member knocks on the door.
“It’s more about giving than receiving,” Magdalena said. “We open our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, so once we get it out of the way we can really focus on the true meaning of Christmas and being thankful.”

Magdalena Dutkowska stands in front of a traditional Polish Christmas tabernacle as a six year old. Courtesy of Magdalena Dutkowska '18
Magdalena Dutkowska stands in front of a traditional Polish Christmas tabernacle as a six year old.
Courtesy of Magdalena Dutkowska ’18

Though Magdalena and her family no longer live in Poland, she hopes to pass their Polish Christmas traditions onto future generations.
“Even if I live here when I’m older, I would still like to carry on the traditions with my future family and I think it’s important because it’s how I grew up,” Magdalena said.
More than one thousand miles from Poland, Ireland also relishes in the holiday spirit. Aislinn Ó Sé, an Irish exchange student from Mount Anville Secondary School in Dublin and currently in the transition year, an Irish twist on a gap year, appreciates celebrating the holidays in her hometown.
“There’s a special place called Grafton Street in Dublin that many people go to around the holidays to enjoy and have fun,” Aislinn said. “It’s where people go to do their arts, so there are a lot of choirs there and a concert hall.”
Memorable traditions in Dublin include visiting the local Christmas market and viewing performances in nearby theaters.
“There’s a Christmas market in town that sets up at the beginning of the holiday season,” Aislinn said. “The National Concert Hall has plays every year and there are pantomimes in the theaters too. It’s very popular around this time.”
Back in the United States, sophomore Ava Vanech moved to Greenwich from her hometown of Los Angeles, California over the summer. Due to California’s warm climate, Christmas traditions differ greatly from those in Connecticut.
"Ice" is a popular ice rink in Santa Monica that often melts during California's warm winters. Courtesy of Ava Vanech '17
“Ice” is a popular ice rink in Santa Monica that often melts during California’s warm winters.
Courtesy of Ava Vanech ’17

“Because we have so many palm trees, seeing evergreens is really rare so most people in California like getting real Christmas trees,” Ava said. “Also, in Santa Monica there’s an outdoor ice rink but it melts because it is so warm.”
Californians also have the opportunity to visit Disneyland during the holidays. The park sets up Christmas decorations early in the season and holds holiday events for families to attend.
After living in Southern California for 14 years, however, Ava looks forward to spending the Christmas season in the snow.
“I think snow makes the holiday season feel more festive,” Ava said. “Having cold weather puts you more in the Christmas mood. It’s weird having 80 degree weather in California during December.”
Across the world, sophomore Kendall Newman lived in Shanghai, China for one year as a sixth grade student. Although she enjoyed Shanghai, she wishes there was a stronger sense of Christmas spirit.
Upper School Chinese teacher Mrs. Joanne Wu-Havemeyer agrees with Kendall, but thinks the lack of holiday spirit revolves around China’s focus on the Chinese New Year.
“In the United States, people celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and sing songs,” Mrs. Havemeyer said.  “They exchange gifts and get together with family members. In China, people still do similar things during the Chinese New Year.”
However, according to Mrs. Havemeyer, Christmas is becoming more popular in eastern China as many Chinese citizens convert to Christianity after learning the Christmas story.
There are a plethora of holiday traditions that vary from country to country. Some Sacred Heart students had the opportunity to live in locations other than Greenwich, Connecticut and they continue to remember their unique experiences.
-Morgan Johnson, Staff Writer