Exchange students share holiday traditions

By Greg Hunt

“Frohe Weihnachten!” “Feliz Navidad!” and “Yoi otoshi o!” The four 2012 foreign exchange students at Cambridge-Isanti High School– Laura Botey, Marco Dominguez, Kurara Takahashi and Caro Volz– shared some of their native country traditions which take place in the winter holiday season.

Caro hails from Germany. “I think my favorite part is getting two weeks of holiday– getting a two-week vacation from school. Last year, we took a vacation to Norway and spent Christmas in a lonely, snowy place. Watched this stupid yodeling show on TV- it was pretty bad!

A “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year” go out to the CIHS exchange students (l-r) Marco Dominguez, Caro Volz, Laura Botey, and Kurara Takahashi. Photo by Greg Hunt

“But on the 6th of December in Germany, kids put out their boots, and then St. Nickolas comes and puts candy in their boots and shoes. But if the kids were naughty, they’d get a ‘rute’– branches from a tree to be used for spanking. Another tradition is having children open the windows on an Advent Calendar from the 1st to the 24th, and there would be a piece of candy inside each window.”

Laura is from Spain. “On Jan. 6th, the Three Wisemen come and bring presents to the children, like Santa does here. That’s really cool (Jan. 6 is the Epiphany). The night before in every village and every city, there’s a parade with the Three Wisemen. The cities are decorated with a lot of ornaments. The kids can give a letter to the Wisemen, and they get candy from them. Some people celebrate Santa Claus, too, but the Three Wisemen is the original tradition.”

Marco is from Mexico. “Just like here, Santa comes late on Christmas Eve. We have a big supper and party and all that. Our family, we exchange presents on Dec. 26th, drawing names and trying to keep it secret. On New Year’s Eve, it’s a big party with fireworks. It’s very traditional that we do ‘The Old Man.’ We grab old clothes from our grandpa, make an old guy out of newspaper, then we burn it. It’s like starting the New Year fresh. On Jan. 6th, the Three Wisemen come to our villages, too.”

Kurara is from Japan. “Christmas Day is a regular day for us, going to either school or work. New Year’s is celebrated more than Christmas. We get up very early to see the sun rise, then we have a big breakfast. The meal has meanings that go with it– good seeing, good hearing, many meanings. Also, we have to clean our rooms before the New Year’s– yeah, I hate that! (The spring cleaning is called “Oshogatsu”). Then later on New Year’s, many people go to the shrine. And kids get money on New Year’s, too.”

All four students will be sticking around this area with their host families to sample the holidays in Minnesota (all four also said they have “the best host family ever!” The four are patiently waiting for snow to see what Minnesota usually looks like at this time of year.

Kurara is staying with the Larry and Vicki Ostrom family, and she is looking forward to trying the American Christmas food. Marco’s host family is the John and Trudy Cariveau home. He already went to Winthrop for the extended Cariveau family Christmas gathering. Over break, Marco will join the Bluejacket Wrestlers at the Rumble on the Red Invite at Fargo.

Laura is excited to see what her host family, the Richard & Linda DeLages, do for Christmas, and she is hoping to get skiing or do other winter activitees once the snow comes. Caro, who is staying with Tim & Paula Kent, has a Christmas stocking already hanging for her, and she will do the name exchange with them, too. She also is looking forward to sampling the holiday food fare.