Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! For most of you, it is the last week of school before Winter Break. Depending where you live, you may be experiencing the beginnings of a very cold, snowy winter, or for others, winter may be feeling quite warm, and sunny!
The holidays in the United States are exciting, as Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th, but since the U.S.A. respects other cultures and customs, many of our public schools and offices celebrate different holidays, such as: Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Las Posadas, Diwali and Hanukkah. Whether you return home for the winter break or remain in the U.S.A. with your host family, we hope you enjoy this festive season.
Having lived abroad during the holidays, I know being in a different culture brings mixed emotions. Sometimes, I was excited to try new things and celebrate with new friends. But other times, I felt lonely and disappointed that I was far from home. But this time of year gives you many opportunities to experience American culture that not only is different, but also can be pretty enjoyable too!
For those of you who will be experiencing an American Christmas, I would like to share 10 FUN ways to get in the Christmas spirit and share good cheer with others.
10) Go Ice Skating (Indoors or Outdoors): Even if you live in a warm climate, you can still find a rink to try this slippery, winter activity!
9) Look at Christmas lights: All around America people decorate their homes for this season only…sometimes the lights are even coordinated to music!
8) Listen to Christmas music: From pop to country to jazz, many musicians create their own versions of famous Christmas songs. Try learning the lyrics to a few famous Christmas carols.
7) Watch a Christmas movie: Most Americans have a favorite Christmas movie- ask your host family what their favorite movie is…. Elf? Miracle on 34th Street? It’s a Wonderful Life? National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?
6) Make a Gingerbread House: These cute houses made out of cookies are decorated with white icing and candy.
5) Participate in an Annual Toy Drive: Christmas is about sharing and giving…buying a toy and donating it to a child in need helps spread Christmas joy.
4) Mail a Christmas card: Send a Christmas card to a friend or family member.
3) Make homemade cookies and hot chocolate: Look for recipes online and try your hand at an American Christmas tradition.
2) Attend a Christmas Eve service at church: The night before Christmas, many families go to church to sing songs announcing the birth of Jesus to celebrate the greatest gift God has given.
1) Give a small gift to your host family on Christmas day: buy small gifts and wrap them for each member of your host family and place the gifts under the Christmas tree to share Christmas joy.
If you are having feelings of sadness or loneliness, we encourage you to talk with your Coordinator or host parent. They are there to support you and pray with you. During the Christmas season, we wish you joy and peace, and hope that you will be able to try some new Christmas traditions this year.
Don't forget to connect with me on WeChat and tell me how you are spending your Christmas holiday. We at AHLI are happy to stay in touch with you and hear how you are doing.
AHLI Executive Director
P.S. Here I am meeting this month with a group of AHLI students and enjoying dinner in Lancaster, PA.