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Christmas in America January 12, 2010

Posted by americanex in holidays.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I hope everyone’s holiday was as fun and happy as mine. I went to America for the holidays and spent Christmas and New Year’s with my family. There are a few differences between the holidays in Ukraine and in the United States. One of them is the date.

In America, we celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Every family may have their own traditions on how they celebrate, but Americans observe this day as the birth of Christ and when Santa Claus comes with presents. Most of the businesses close for Christmas including grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and offices. Gas stations are open and of course, the police officers and firemen have to work because there might be an emergency or fire.

In my family, we celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, all of my husband’s family gather together for the traditional Italian dinner of 7 different fish. This tradition is very old, and we believe eating 7 different types of fish will bring you good luck all 7 days of the week. The number 7 symbolizes the 7 Sacraments in the Catholic Church, the 7 continents in the world and the 7 Great Wonders of the World. This year, we ate cod-fish, shrimp, lobster, sardines, crab, squid and smelts.

After dinner, we opened presents t out by the head of the family – my father-in-law. Then we ate pastry that is also traditional – belish (small fruit filled cookies), nutroll, biscotti (Italian cookies) and buckeyes. If you don’t know what buckeyes are, read my Blog, “What is Falling from Above.” The recipe for buckeyes is there.

After a fun evening of food and presents, we went to midnight mass at St. Cyprian’s Church in my hometown of Perry. There was a lot of singing at mass and we enjoyed hearing and singing the Christmas Carols. Then it was off to bed!

On Christmas morning, my daughters and I got up and discovered that Santa Claus had been to our house. We must have been good girls! We had many presents under the tree and gifts of candy in our stockings, which were hung above the fireplace. After we opened our presents, we went to the kitchen to begin preparing another traditional meal – turkey. My daughters did the cooking and I watched. They let me rest because every year I prepare the meal, and it was a wonderful gift to me to have them do the cooking this year.

One  my sisters and her family came to my house to have Christmas dinner with us. Our traditional meal included a turkey and stuffing, ham, sweet potatoes, zucchini, green beans, mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. We said a prayer before eating to thank God for the food and that we can once again be together. For dessert, we had apple pie, chocolate cream pie and pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top. After cleaning up the kitchen and washing the dishes, we went into the living room to rest…we ate too much just like most people do at a special feast and we were tired!

Later, so many more family members came over that we had nowhere to sit. It was a wonderful day full of good food, much talk and happy voices sharing memories of Christmases past. During the holidays, we like to talk about when we were young children and how it was different or similar to today. We also talk about the family members who are no longer with us, and how much we miss them. We keep our loved ones alive through our stories and happy memories.

In America, the New Year is celebrated on New Year’s Eve, December 31st. and on into the early morning hours of January 1st.  There are many parties at peoples’ homes and in cafes and restaurants. My family likes to stay home and play games such as Uno and Scrabble and toast the New Year at midnight with Champagne. This year, it was my daughters, Hallie and Darcie, Darcie’s boyfriend Mark and me. We had so much fun playing different games that we almost missed midnight and our Champagne toast. 

To me, New Year’s means a new beginning…starting over with a fresh new year and a fresh new opportunity to do all the things that are important. Being with my daughters, sisters and all my family meant a great deal to me, but I did miss all my friends in Kherson and those in other cities in Ukraine. I thought about all the people from my English Clubs and hoped that everyone was enjoying their holidays also.

Happy New Year to you and I hope to see you in the Kherson Oblast Children’s Library very soon. 

Deborah Garofalo, Peace Corps Volunteer


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