Exchange students around the world share their unique Christmas traditions


Olivia Caponiti '23

Peru, Austria, and Australia all celebrate Christmas in their own distinct ways.

Although the student exchange program is virtual this year in the wake of COVID-19, 12 Upper School students are still finding ways to share holiday traditions with their assigned exchange student across the world through video calls and social media networks.  Sophomores Nadia Borja, Lindsay Benza, and Kristin Morrow have been getting to know their students, allowing them to learn more about how they celebrate the holidays.

An important part of the exchange program is for both students to share their daily routines and traditions.  As the holidays approach, the students discuss the ways in which they celebrate Christmas in order to learn more about the culture of their partner’s country.

Nadia’s exchange student, Daniela A. Aybar Trujillo, is from Lima, Peru.  Peruvians often begin their Christmas celebration at 12 a.m. when they open presents.  Restaurants, malls, and a variety of public places also open at this time for everyone to visit with their families or friends after they open gifts.  In order to spend the whole day celebrating, everyone sleeps for the whole day on Christmas Eve.

“After opening gifts at 12, we light fireworks and spend time together as a family,” Daniela said.  “In my case, I spend Christmas with my whole extended family.  After celebrating, eating, and opening presents, you can go wherever you want; surprisingly every place is open at midnight.”

Adelaide celebrates Christmas with her family in Brisbane.  Courtesy of Adelaide Pollard

Caroline Klein, Lindsay’s exchange student, lives in Vienna, Austria.  In Vienna, the Christmas celebrations occur December 5, December 6, December 24, and December 25.  In addition, the Viennese practice a commonly told folktale about a character named Krampus, who, according to the story, comes to the city during the holiday season.  In the tale, he is a creature who steals naughty children and punishes them.

“On December 5th, ‘Krampus’ comes to the kids that didn’t behave well and there is ‘Krampuslauf’ where people dress up and ‘hunt’ the kids to punish (of course they don’t actually hurt them),” Caroline said.  “On the 6th of December, Nicholas, who looks a bit like Santa, comes.  Then, on December 24 in the evening, the Christ child brings gifts and sets up the Christmas tree.”

Kristin Morrow’s exchange student, Adelaide Pollard, celebrates Christmas in either Sydney or Brisbane, Australia.  Christmas in Australia often revolves around family, food, religion, and love.  In correlation with the importance of faith and values during the holidays, many children in Australia make it their goal to donate to the less fortunate.

“In the final weeks at school leading up to the Christmas holidays, each class will begin to prepare their charity drives,” Adelaide said.  “This year, each class made a ‘Share the Dignity’ bag, which is a bag filled with essential needs and special gifts for people experiencing poverty.  We also all donated canned goods to create a basket of food for the Saint Vincent de Paul drive assisting families in need at this time of the year.”

Share the Dignity is an organization that collects bags of goods to give to people living in poverty.  Courtesy of

Similar to the United States, families in Peru, Vienna, and Australia focus on the religious aspects and significance of Christmas.  For example, the most important part of Christmas for Daniela is when they put the baby Jesus in the manger at midnight.  In Vienna, religion often lies within the Advent wreaths and consistent attendance at church.

“We also have an advent wreath which is made out of brushwood and there are four candles with decorations on it,” Caroline said.  “Every Sunday before Christmas, one more candle is lit.  Traditionally all candles are violet, except the third one that one is pink.  Though, most people just take random colors, ours, for example, are grey.”

All around the world, Christmas is a time to bond and spend quality time with ones closest family and friends.  Caroline strives to see as many loved ones as possible and enjoy their company on the summer day.

“Most people simply spend this time with whom they love,” Caroline said.  “I spend all my Christmases bouncing between my cousin’s houses trying to have as much fun with all of them as possible.  We eat major meals, swim in the pool, and share tons of joy.”

Featured Image by Olivia Caponiti ’23