Grand Ledge Students Share Holiday Traditions



Christmas is widely celebrated in America. Lights are strung up on houses, snow is everywhere, hot chocolate sees a rise in sales. Christmas is a globally celebrated holiday, but America has its own theme to it.

Hanging lights on the exterior of homes is an important tradition to many cultures. Tree’s are normally put in the living room of a house, whether it is artificial or real. Lights and ornaments are used to decorate the Christmas tree.

“My family celebrates Christmas the way most families celebrate, by putting up lights and a tree like others,” Senior Madison Smith stated.

Families place presents underneath the tree, waiting to be opened on Christmas Day. Many families also have a big dinner the night before Christmas. Traditional foods to eat are turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and vegetables. Then on Christmas Eve, people go to sleep waiting for Christmas Day.

Another tradition is to leave out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for Santa to enjoy, while he delivers presents. Santa is the biggest figure of the Christmas holiday, being the person who delivers presents to everyone on the night of December 24th. For most, spending time with family is what matters the most during the holidays.

“My favorite part of Christmas is spending time with my family, it is the best day of the year to spend time
with them and open presents together,” Commented Smith.

Christmas is a special holiday, which many people around the world enjoy. America celebrates Christmas with a variety of different methods. This holiday is truly special for all.


Christmas in Poland differs from that of other countries. In December, Poland celebrates two important holidays: St. Nicholas Day and Christmas. Most of Poland’s population is Roman-Catholic, making Christmas a very important religious holiday.

“Around 90% of the population is Roman-Catholic in Poland, so Christmas is an important time for a lot of families,” Polish foreign exchange-student Oliwia Koscielska said.

On St. Nicholas day, people put Christmas stockings in their homes, and in the morning children that have behaved well can find some sweets inside while others find a lump of coal. Then, kids write letters to St. Nicholas about good things they’ve done this year and what gifts they’d like to find under the Christmas tree.

The first day of Christmas that’s celebrated is Dec 24. This day is called Wigilia, and it is when families get together to spend time together and eat a Christmas dinner. The tradition is to start eating when the first star appears in the sky. Before that, families share a host with everyone and exchange wishes for good health and life. People place a piece of hay underneath the table during this portion of the night.

“We also leave a free spot/an empty place at the table for an unexpected guest, someone who may not have anyone to spend Christmas with.” Oliwia Koscielska said.

The tradition is to have twelve dishes. Twelve is the number of wealth, number of apostles, and number of months in the year. The twelve dishes include: red borscht with mushroom mini dumplings (barszczczerwony z uszkami), polish bigos, vegetable salad (jarzynowa sałatka), carp, salmon in aspic, polish pierogi with mushroom and cabbage, polish cheesecake, poppy seed cake (makowiec), wheat-flour and honey dessert (kutia), greece-styled cod and gingerbread.

Christmas carols always play in the background while eating. Gifts are opened after dinner, and at midnight some families go to the midnight mass in the church and celebrate Wigilia there.


Beatrice Arizzi, a foreign exchange student from Italy, had pretty similar experiences with the holiday season in Italy that she did with America. The holiday that she celebrates is Christmas, which is what a large chunk of people here in the United States celebrate.

“We celebrate it because of religious importance, there are a lot of Christians in Italy,” said Arizzi.

Some unique traditions she has with her friends and family back in Italy is making gingerbread houses with her friends and decorating Christmas trees.

Arizzi’s favorite part of the holiday season is having a break from school and overall just getting to spend
time with her family. One of the most important food dishes in Italy is the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Seven different types of fish dishes are plated and served on Christmas Eve. Another really important Italian tradition is The Nativity, which is where you set up the scene of baby Jesus’s birth, except you don’t put baby Jesus in until Christmas Day.

Similar to many other cultures and holiday traditions, Beatrice said the delicious food that gets made only during the holidays is one of the best parts. Most people can agree with her on that!

Although there are many similarities between the holiday season in America and the holiday season in Italy, there still are some differences.

“Christmas in America starts sooner, lasts a lot longer, and is a lot bigger than Italy,” Arizzi said.

That is pretty understandable, as the holiday seasons are taken pretty seriously here in America. Everyone can agree with Arizzi when she says

“Christmas is just nice to celebrate”, because it really is.


Spain has some great traditions like many other countries too. Some of the major traditions in Spain are Christmas, Nochevieja, and Los Reyes. For Christmas, Spanish people decorate neighborhoods, homes, shops etc… with decorations that are similar to the ones in the America.

An important thing that families and shops set up is a belen (nativity scene) in their windows during this
time. It is a very important decoration that is always put on since Spain is a Catholic country. A belen is a set of figures that represent the birth of baby Jesus. On the day before Christmas (Nochebuena), families gather and have a nice meal together containing simple traditional foods like Spanish ham, grilled prawns, crusty bread, and much more.

On the 25th, there is usually a family lunch that includes seafood, roasted lamb, and vegetables. Unlike in America, children do not receive gifts on Christmas. They usually get them on the 6th of January.

Nochevieja (New Years Eve) is a big deal in Spain. Everyone gathers to have a nice meal together with family and friends. When midnight approaches, 12 grapes are passed out to people to eat 12 seconds before midnight arrives. Whoever eats the 12 grapes before the new year gets good luck for the rest of the year.

“We watch this program that is popular in Spain that starts around 10pm,” Alejandro Almagro Fuello, a foreign exchange student at Grand Ledge Highschool stated, “At 11:59 the bells start ringing 12 seconds before the New Year and we start eating a grape each second which is supposed to give us good luck for the New Year,”

When the new year comes, there is another tradition that is celebrated, Los Reyes (Epiphany).

“It’s when the magic kings arrives and we get presents” Jose Miguel Melendez Alvarez said, a foreign exchange student at Grand Ledge High school.

On the day of Reyes, children receive gifts from the three wise men Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. On the day before, there are parades everywhere and festivities. The kids before they go to bed prepare treats for Los Reyes and the camels that accompanied the Reyes.

“After receiving gifts in the morning our family gathers and goes to a restaurant or to somebody’s house and we eat together and that’s how we celebrate the end of Christmas” Almagro Fuello said.

In the afternoon, families also gather around to take a piece of Roscon de Reyes (special cake for three kings day). In the roscon, there is a figurine of baby Jesus and a Lima bean. Whoever finds baby Jesus will have good luck throughout the year, but whoever finds the Lima bean has to buy next year’s roscon.

“I think it’s fun that the holiday season extends into January. I also just like sharing this cultural topic with students because many of them have never heard of it before” Mrs. Dietzel said, a Spanish teacher at Grand Ledge High school.


Like other countries, France celebrates traditions that are unique to this country. One of the many things that are done starting

Dec.1st is a Calendrier m de l‘avent (advent calendars). Calendrier m de l’avent is very popular during the holiday season. An advent calendar is a calendar that is used on the month of Dec. to get people exited for Christmas. Everyday a piece of the calendar is opened and a toy or candy will appear.

Another thing done by families is setting up the Creche (Nativity scene). Families can see many of them set up not only at homes but in churches too. The Creches are very detailed and include a lot of pieces like Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus etc…

On the night before Christmas, there’s a special meal called Le Reveillon de Noel. Family and friends gather with one another to enjoy stuffed chestnut turkey, oysters, foie gras and much more.

“This meal can go on for 3 hours,” Madame Sowel, a French teacher at the high school, stated.

For dessert, a very popular and traditional treat called Buche de Noel (Yule Log) is made and bought by many families. It is a chocolate cake rolled up and decorated to mimic a log.

“I make the Bushe de Noel, the Christmas cake, every Christmas for dinner on Christmas day,” said Madame Sowel.

France also celebrates Epiphany. In french it is called La Fetes Des Rois. French families make or buy this special tart called La Galette Des Rois. Inside the galette, there is a porcelain object called feve. It is hidden inside the galette and whoever finds the feve gets to be crowned “king or queen” for the day. The “king or queen” throughout the day get to wear their crown and choose someone to join them in their reign of the day.

Other French traditions are the meal Le Reveillon de Noel to Fetes Des Rois. All are very significant to France.

“I would love to actually go with the family and be part of the dinner,” Madame Sowel said “I think it would be very nice to experience that.”