First Christmas away from home

Pictured above is a Christmas dinner in Brazil. Christmas in Brazil and Christmas in the United States are similar but different in their own cultural aspects. Photo by C.Nascimento/Setonian.

Before I came to the United States, I used to dream about experiencing a Christmas like the ones I’d seen in the movies: buying and decorating real Christmas trees, drinking hot chocolate in front of a fireplace and watching the snow falling outside. 

However, now that I am about to spend my first Christmas away from my family, I’ve found myself not only homesick for the same Christmas I have experienced for 22 years, but also excited to find what a real American Christmas looks like. 

“On Christmas Eve I usually go to my grandmother’s house for a traditional ham & turkey dinner,” said Destiny Buccieri, a junior business and hospitality double major. 

“After that, me and my mother go home and have a few traditions of our own. When I was little, we used to leave cookies and milk out for Santa; however, now we randomly choose and open a present one day early. On Christmas morning, my mother makes my step-siblings and I an all American breakfast with eggs, bacon, toast, hash browns and sausage. Later in the day, I go to my Italian grandfather’s house,that is where we have lasagna for dinner, and open more presents with each other,” Buccieri said.

“Still, the tradition which I cherish the most is from when I lived in Florida; my mom and I used to rent a golf cart and ride it around some of the nearby neighborhoods and look at all of the Christmas lights and decorations,” Buccieri said.

In Brazil, we usually do not decorate our houses a lot and our Christmas trees are all store bought; in fact, mine has been in my family ever since I was around eight years old. Still, we decorate our Christmas tree early in November and they stay decorated until the Jan. 7. 

Usually, on Christmas Eve, my mother, sister and I cook dinner before my father joins us to go to church around six. When we are back from the church, that is when we have dinner that consists of turkey, ham, farofa (a Brazilian dish made of cracker crumbs, garlic and raisins), smashed potatoes, coxinha (chicken croquettes) and rice with raisins. For dessert, we have Panettone and brigadeiro (a typical Brazilian dessert). 

We do not wait until Christmas morning to open our presents, we open them right after dinner. It is summer in Brazil when it’s winter here, so instead of sitting together by the fire and getting cozy, we sit on our balcony and let the fresh cold air in. On Christmas Day, we usually eat the leftovers and my sister and I watch Christmas movies together. 

“I think that spending time with family and friends, and just enjoying the beauty that is Christmas, defines the holiday in the United States. It is such a lovely time with so much to do and see, that people can get overwhelmed and not appreciate the smaller things in life. It is about taking time to enjoy the season with the important people in your life,” said Hannah Long, a senior hospitality major and communication minor. 

“On Christmas Day, I will go to my grandma’s for lunch and my grandparents’ for dinner. But for special traditions, we love to do a variety of Christmas activities in the Pittsburgh area, such as going to Kennywood, visiting PPG Place to see the gingerbread houses, going to Phipps and driving around the neighborhood to see the lights.We are also really big on watching Christmas movies in my family; I love them,” Long said. 

I asked both Buccieri and Long to give me any tips about experiencing my first Christmas in the United States away from home. 

“I may be biased as this is my favorite time of the year, but just truly enjoy yourself! Feel the Christmas spirit, go sled riding and build snowmen, decorate your house, enjoy the holiday feasts and most importantly, leave some cookies and dairy-free milk out for Santa,” Buccieiri said. 

“I would definitely recommend checking out some of the different holiday activities around the Pittsburgh area. There are so many different things to do and see that should definitely be taken advantage of! Just get in the Christmas spirit and enjoy the holidays, they can definitely be a lot of fun,” Long said. 

Even though I am extremely homesick and scared about spending my first Christmas away from my family, I am looking forward to my first American Christmas and to making brand new Christmas memories this year!

Published by Caitlin Srager

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