Christmas traditions not just American, vary by culture

From midnight feasts to large gatherings, holiday themes change

FRANKIE SY, Evergreen columnist

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As the winter holiday season arrives, it brings up the topic regarding the special blend of traditions and different cultures during Christmastime.

Christmas has a different meaning in every culture. In the Philippines, Christmas carols begin to play in stores starting in September, said Mya Johnson, a WSU student who is of Filipino descent. For Filipinos, Christmas is a big occasion due to its roots in the Catholic faith and they try to celebrate it for as long as possible.

Johnson spends every Christmas with the Filipino side of her family and they have a large-scale way of approaching the day before Christmas. Noche Buena is a midnight feast that follows Christmas Eve mass and family and friends stop by to help themselves to several dishes.

“It’s basically a huge Thanksgiving dinner on Christmas Eve,” Johnson said. “We gather around and have dinner, then open gifts at midnight.”

Although Johnson’s family is Adventist, Christians whose primary belief focuses on the second coming of Christ, they still partake in festivities “Filipino-style.”

By being an Adventist, a person must restrict certain foods from their diets. Filipinos typically have lechon or roasted pig, which is a traditional meal on Christmas, but they find a way around that.

“Usually people have ham but since we can’t eat pork, we just have turkey instead,” Johnson said.

In Ho Chi Minh City — the largest city in Vietnam — people celebrate the holiday similarly, said Gina Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Student Association. Within the city, there is a Catholic cathedral that holds church services and Midnight Mass which is a sermon for the holiday.

Nguyen is familiar with these traditions because of her family despite being Buddhist herself. While many people in Vietnam aren’t Christians, they still enjoy attending Midnight Mass to watch the Nativity plays and listen to Christmas music, Nguyen said.

“There’s not much of a difference with American culture … [my family and I] don’t go to the temples on Christmas, but just gather together with our families at night [and] exchange gifts along with singing karaoke,” she said.

Though each culture has its own set of traditions, the joy brought by the holiday season is a shared thing everyone can partake in. No matter what faith a person believes in, this time of the year is filled with familial love.