An exchange student’s view of Christmas: What it’s like celebrating Christmas in America

McNicholas’ exchange students Duru Bekircan from Turkey and Hallie Kim from South Korea celebrated their first American Christmas in December. Both students shared their perspectives with The Milestone.

Q. What do you think about American Christmas?

Hallie Kim: Last year Christmas was my first day of Christmas in America and it was kind of cool. In my country, we celebrate part of Christmas, but it’s just for children who believe Santa is a real live person. In Korea, just preschoolers believe [in] Santa and most of the teenagers [do] not. I believed that Santa [was] a real live person when before I went to elementary school, so it was so cool that American[s] [give] presents to each other, even as adults.

Q. What specific thing did you find interesting about Christmas?

Hallie Kim: It was interesting that almost all the schools have decorations and a bunch of giant Christmas trees. [They have] a lot of presents for their family and Christmas stockings, which hang by the fireplace. I got my first Christmas stockings, and it was so cool and interesting.

Duru Bekircan: We don’t have any religious holidays during that time.

Q.What are your perceived notions about Christmas?

Hallie Kim: What I imagined is there was going to be a lot of snow during Christmas when I came to America. I imagined celebrating Christmas in America with snow because in my 17-year life I did not have a white Christmas because we don’t have snow that much at Christmas. My mom said when I was born there was a bunch of snow and it was so cool. That was my first and last white Christmas ever in my life. And another thing I imagined about Christmas is lots of food just for Christmas and people wearing ugly Christmas sweaters like I see in American movies. And the thing I didn’t imagine is that parents give Christmas presents to their children even if they are adults. [T]he most surprising thing was their grandparents make all of the Christmas food. In Korea when we celebrate Christmas, grandparents just wait for their children to bring food to eat, so we have to make food before going to their house.

Duru Bekircan: Turkey, as a country, doesn’t have a specific religion, but I know that Christians in Turkey are still celebrating Christmas. It’s just not a whole country thing.

Q. [There are] a lot of Christmas decorations. Do you have something you really [liked]?

Hallie Kim: The most interesting part is [how others] decorate their houses with very pretty lights and when I come to school I can see lights hanging [everywhere]. Like in my home country house, we have a giant Christmas tree, but most of the people live in apartments, so we don’t have decorations, which are hanging in the house. And last Christmas was [my] first time making Christmas cookies.

Duru Bekircan: I like the decorations.


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