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Exchange students in Bay Roberts, Carbonear ready to spend holiday season in Newfoundland

Ascension Collegiate’s exchange students for the 2018-19 school year, from left, Elif Didem Cora, Luis Pablo Reza, Anna Luiza Bittencourt Dias, Clara Ferrari, Celia Ojeda Sánchez, Marga Barga, Kal Murdock, Natalia Ferrari, Jakob Schappelwein, Daniel Nahan Guerrero and Veeraputy Riertilearchouphant.
Ascension Collegiate’s exchange students for the 2018-19 school year, from left, Elif Didem Cora, Luis Pablo Reza, Anna Luiza Bittencourt Dias, Clara Ferrari, Celia Ojeda Sánchez, Marga Barga, Kal Murdock, Natalia Ferrari, Jakob Schappelwein, Daniel Nahan Guerrero and Veeraputy Riertilearchouphant. - Andrew Robinson

CONCEPTION BAY NORTH, N.L.

For just about all of the foreign exchange students attending school in Conception Bay North, it was pretty surreal to wake up earlier this month and see large drifts of snow outside.

“I loved it, the snow day was amazing,” said Anna Luiza Bittencourt Dias, whose home country of Brazil is experiencing temperatures in the low-30s this month.

Carbonear Collegiate has four exchange students from Germany (one of them has lived in Portugal for the last two years), while Ascension Collegiate has 11 visiting students representing seven countries — Australia, Austria, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and Turkey. They’re all about to experience their first Christmas in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Prior to coming here, most students had limited knowledge of the province. Australian exchange student Kal Murdock was aware of the coastal communities and the importance of fish to the island, and Celia Ojeda Sánchez of Spain had a grandfather who came here through his working in the fishery.

Carbonear Collegiate has four German exchange students, from left, Giselle Hartmann (who moved to Portugal two years ago), Lisa Spiller, Clara Haase and Lilli Grandt.
Carbonear Collegiate has four German exchange students, from left, Giselle Hartmann (who moved to Portugal two years ago), Lisa Spiller, Clara Haase and Lilli Grandt.

One aspect of the Newfoundland Christmas just about all students commented on when speaking with The Compass was the abundance of lights used for decorations. The German students from Carbonear Collegiate — who collectively have never experienced a white Christmas and were surprised to see snow come so early — said only yellow lights are used for decorating in their country.

“It’s a lot more decorations than in Germany,” said Giselle Hartmann. “The maximum outside the house is maybe like one light.”

Christmas trees in Germany also tend to look a bit more subdued, having only a few bows tied on for decoration. Generally, Germans avoid using fake trees.

Some have already been out to get Christmas trees for the homes they’re staying in, and students from both schools marched in their local Santa Claus parades.

“It was really fun. We don’t have this in Brazil,” Clara Ferrari said.

Holiday traditions

Traditions in their home countries vary. Turkish exchange student Elif Didem Cora said people do not really celebrate Christmas in her country (Turkey has a very small Christian population).

In Germany, Christmas is celebrated the evening of Dec. 24. There’s also a special tradition honoured on Dec. 6 on St. Nikolaus Day, where children leave shoes out the night before and find them filled by Nikolaus with treats the next morning. The treats are only left if the shoes are clean.

“I put them in my host family’s shoes, and in the morning they were like, ‘What’s that?’” laughed Clara Haase.

Food is a big part of Christmas in Brazil. Families and friends gather for supper on Christmas Eve and then sing carols when midnight strikes (some gifts may also be exchanged at this time). In the morning, they continue eating.

“It’s always too much,” Clara Farrari said with a laugh.

“And then you keep eating the same food for one week, and it’s never gone, unless you throw it away,” added Anna.

Santa Claus is generally not a part of Spain’s holiday traditions. There’s a special New Year’s tradition where people eat 12 grapes, with each representing a month from the upcoming year. If you eat them leading up to the stroke of midnight, it’s considered good luck. Shortly thereafter, Spain celebrates Fiesta de Los tres Reyes Mages, which celebrates the three wise men and kings from the Jesus origin story. A parade for this usually takes place Jan. 5.

Austria is among the European countries with a connection to Krampus, a seasonal demon who, as folklore tells it, would punish children who misbehaved.

“In Austria, we have a tradition instead of a Christmas parade where people basically dress up as devils in cow fur and stuff,” said Jakob Schappelwein.

The overall experience of living and learning in Newfoundland has been good thus far. German exchange student Lisa Spiller finds Newfoundlanders to be much friendlier than people in her own country.

“In Germany, when you say to someone ‘Hi,’ they give you a look like, ‘What are you doing?’” she said.

editor@cbncompass.ca

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