Students Share Their Perspectives on Christmas
BY JIM MALVEN
The month of December not only means finals, but also the beginning of many winter holidays. Westminster students celebrate these days with a wide variety of customs and traditions. Here is a look at Christmas — the winter holiday most commonly celebrated at Westminster — from the perspectives of three students: Jon Antel, ’18, from Columbia, Missouri; Isaac Coronel, ’17, from Mesa, Arizona; and Manfredo Flores, ’18, from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Q: How do you celebrate Christmas, and with whom do you celebrate?
Antel: I celebrate Christmas with my brother and parents in our home in Columbia. We will wake up late, have cinnamon rolls or other homemade breakfast, open stockings, [and] open gifts. Everyone helps in the kitchen making a big dinner with lots of dishes, then [we] have dinner like pot roast, then watch a Christmassy movie on TV or watch home videos.
Coronel: I celebrate Christmas with my family and friends — family being mom, aunts, uncles, grandparents and distant relatives. Something unique about my celebration is that a lot of our food is Hispanic related. Most of the time, I see a lot of big, warm American meals and such. We do a lot of that too, but we also have a lot of Hispanic food — a lot of tamales and enchiladas are involved. Another thing is that we don’t get much snow in my part of the country and my part of Arizona. The weather is actually really nice; it’s like mid-fall Missouri weather.
Flores: I celebrate Christmas with my whole family. We spend all night together eating and talking. Usually we go to my mom’s side of the family because we’ve grown closer to them our whole lives, so we enjoy being with them. On Christmas Eve, the point is to stay up all night. We have a lot of fireworks that night and then open Christmas gifts at midnight. After you open them, everyone starts playing with them. That’s why we stay up — to open our gifts before going to bed. Also at midnight, fireworks go off, even though they’re illegal. If you go up to the mountains, you will see that the city is filled with fireworks. The thing that makes it most different is the fact that we stay up all night instead of sleeping and getting up the next morning. On Christmas, everything’s closed, except the movie theatres. The whole country basically stops.
Q: Why do you celebrate Christmas?
Antel: I celebrate Christmas just as a social custom that is popular in the United States. I’m sure some families celebrate it as a very religious holiday, but we don’t do that.
Coronel: I celebrate Christmas, first of all, because my family has always celebrated Christmas since I was born; there was never a time where I didn’t celebrate Christmas. Second … I think Christmas is a wonderful time to get together with the entire family, especially family members that I haven’t seen in years or months. It is always a joy to see them and to get to talk to them and tell them about things that have happened in my life, both positive and negative, as well as listening to their positive and negative things.
Flores: For me, it’s religiously driven. We always go to church before going back home and eating with our family that night.
Q: What do you see as the significance of Christmas?
Antel: I think it’s just a break away from school to rejuvenate while being with good friends and family.
Coronel: It’s just a great moment to gather with the family. It’s also the moment when you get to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and, you know, I’ve always enjoyed those stories, of his birth through hardships and such, but there’s always a good thing at the end of it all. I enjoy reflecting on the stories of Jesus and others, having this to be a reminder on whether it’s even right to receive the gifts we get on Christmas, when poor families that are raising babies like Jesus go through such hardships. So sometimes, it’s a reminder in my head, asking me, ‘Do I even deserve these gifts?’
Flores: First of all, there’s the religious aspect. It’s really significant to celebrate Christianity, but the other thing is to celebrate your family; it’s a time to rejoice how good life is.
Q: What is your favorite part of your holiday?
Antel: The food. I really enjoy having a good pot roast dinner with my family.
Coronel: Just spending that wonderful time with family. It’s also just a good relaxation from all the finals and all the exams that we endure.
Flores: Every member of my extended family makes a good dish. We get a lot of food and a lot of good food. Everyone’s at the same table, so you get to see everyone and enjoy everyone’s company.
Editor’s note: Parts of these interviews were edited for length and clarity.
What winter holiday do you celebrate? The Columns would like to hear about your favorite traditions — please share your thoughts with us in the comments.