Status: Staying in Tilburg this Christmas
Homesick students are packing their bags and slowly leaving to their dear ones. Some take trains and some are booking flights while everyone is getting ready to face delays, transfers and being squeezed between overly packed folks with one too many story to tell. But what about the ones who are staying in Tilburg or those that don’t take part in Christmas celebration at all? How do students from non-Christian religions see our traditions? Univers blogger Katarina Mihaljević asked them.
To try and get answers to those questions, I spoke with students from China, Vietnam and Turkey who are staying here for the holidays and asked them about their plans for this Christmas.
“I see Christmas as a break from work.” Yi Zhang, from Shanghai, is doing her Research Master in Economics and we are having this discussion in her room at the Statenlaan, a student housing area known as ‘Chinatown’ due to the high number of Asian students living here. She plans to visit her husband in Germany and use this time to relax. When asked about the influence of the Western tradition of Christmas on her hometown in China, she has a ready answer: “Great commercial success. All companies use this to make sales, you see fancy Christmas trees everywhere and young people use this as a good chance to go out dating and buy presents- it’s like Valentine’s Day but there are no trees in homes nor do parents get you presents.”
If she was to compare Christmas to their biggest holiday, Chinese New Year, Yi finds lots of connections: “You need to book your ticket months ahead, imagine a billion people moving across the country to visit their families, even the most remote migrant workers. We watch TV shows, cook and genuinely dedicate this time to the family.”
I meet Lien from Hanoi, Vietnam, one floor up; we talk in her break from writing her master thesis in Economics: “Christmas is just a day off to me to have fun with my friends and buy discounted stuff. It cannot be compared to our Vietnamese Lunar New Year (or Tet holiday), the biggest celebration in my country – this is the time when we all come together.”
“Christmas is just a day off to me to have fun with my friends and buy discounted stuff”
When asked about the Bible story connected to Christmas, most students from Turkey knew about the birth of Jesus and the three kings’ visit. Apart from that, in Ankara, you will wait a bit to see Christmas trees. Erensu, a finance master student, explains: “We call them New Year’s trees, they appear during the New Year time around shopping areas and this is the time that we give presents as well. This is a great chance for us to meet up with loved ones nevertheless.”
Caught off guard while cooking, Wenqian shares what seems to be her idea of Christmas at our University: “There are no activities for internationals during this holiday, it would be so nice to have a themed party, to let us know about the story, the rituals and Christmas food.” She ends with: “We know so little about it, apart from the commercial success businesses have because of it.”
Finally, is their vision that much different from ours? And how good or bad that is? I can’t answer that one here, but you can find me in the library having a working Christmas and I will be willing to offer you many stories about both the Christmas traditions and the great marketing success it is today.