One of my favorite things about working in international schools is a traditional activity that I do right before everyone leaves for the winter holidays: I ask students to write about their favorite holiday celebration, and they write and talk about their families and how they celebrate together. So today, that’s what I’m doing with my English classes. Here’s my own example:
My family is a mix between the cold, stoic, quiet American North (me) and the warm, tropical, loud Caribbean islands (my wife). We met in Venezuela, where I started to understand that celebrations in South America are a lot different from what I was used to up in the North. The Venezuelan parties I remembered involved drinking Johnny Walker, making a traditional Venezuelan bread called “Pan de Jamon,” dancing Merengue, and watching a million different private firework shows — mostly enormous explosions from low-altitude missiles known as house wreckers (tumbaranchos) and mother-in-law killers (“matasuegras”).
Contrast with Wisconsin: We drive up to the farmhouse, a quarter of a mile from the two-lane road without streetlights. A barking dog emerges from the house, and as I get out of the warm car, the cold greets my face and turns my breath to a thick vapor. The smoke from the chimney perfumes the air, and a couple of lights adorn the bushes. Christmas in Wisconsin — at least for me — means a reunion of our small family (My parents, my sister’s family, and our troup of three). We sit by the fire, read the paper, read magazines, talk and have civil, moderate disagreements about politics and economics, and watch the Packers on Sunday. My daughter ties fishing flies using my dad’s fly vice. Our Christmas party lasts until about 9pm.
Then we go to Miami for New Year’s. Down in Miami, the party usually starts at about 11:00. Usually we’re with someone’s family, which means that there are about a hundred people in the backyard — little kids, grown-ups, teenagers. There’s music and dancing,