Although all cultures have their own unique holiday traditions, most agree on the most wonderful time of the year: Christmas! BJU is home to students from around the world, meaning that some students will be experiencing an American Christmas for the first time this year.

For some students, Christmas here is not too different from what they are used to back home. Heidi Janke, a senior nursing major, is from Salmon Arm, British Columbia. She says Christmas in Canada is very similar to the Christmas she experiences here, including the Christmas goodies. “My mom does the usual Christmas baking including amazing fudge, toffee and shortbread cookies,” Janke said. For gifts, Janke said they pull names out of a hat and buy a gift for the name they draw. On Christmas Eve they open their gifts, and on Christmas Day they open their stockings. One difference in celebration actually comes the day after Christmas — known as Boxing Day in Canada. “It’s kind of similar to Black Friday here,” Janke said. “It’s a huge shopping day, and the malls are packed out with people returning the gifts they didn’t like.”

For other students, Christmas in the United States is completely different. This is the case for Janine Natus, a freshman business major from Cape Town, South Africa. Because South Africa is on the other side of the equator, Christmas takes place in the summer. She loves seeing snow but misses seeing the beach on Christmas. “We always take our leftovers from our big lunch and pack a picnic,” Natus said. “We head to the beach with our dogs and watch the sunset.” In addition, Natus said people in South Africa use fake Christmas trees simply because real ones don’t grow in an arid climate.

In Austria, they have real trees, but their decorations are more elaborate than in the United States. Nate Hudson, a sophomore accounting major from Vienna said his family goes all out when decorating their Christmas tree. Hudson said, “Christmas trees in Austria are typically decorated with real candles, chocolates and straw ornaments.” While he enjoys how welcoming and hospitable Americans are, especially around the holidays, he has noticed that Christmas is more commercial and busy in the United States. One way his family stays focused on the true meaning of Christmas is by praying for the people who gave them presents before opening their gifts.

Lastly, Jane Chung, a sophomore graphic design major from South Korea, said she has spent many Christmases in the United States. She loves singing Christmas carols, eating a big Christmas meal and going holiday shopping. She said they don’t have the traditional Christmas foods in Korea—or the traditional sales.

From Canada to South Korea, our world is home to many different cultures with unique holiday traditions that help to make Christmas an exciting time of rest, family and food but, most importantly, Christ.