A Month Without Homesickness

Teja from Slovenia
| USA
Hello everyone!

Since this is the first time you are going to read something of mine, I should tell you a little about myself. I am an 18-year-old High School Student from Slovenia, finishing my senior year in Arizona. There have been ups and downs in the past six months, but I never doubted I made the right decision coming to the United States.

It is the end of December and 2016 is just around the corner so it is time to reflect back and remember all the things we did in the past year. I was asked to share my American Christmas experience with you, so here we go.

In Slovenia, just as in many other countries, we do celebrate Christmas. However, it is not as a big, decorated, (too) full with food event as it is here. We have a family dinner on Christmas Eve (just my parents and brother), and we open the gifts before going to bed and exchange the rest with other relatives the next day.

It is not quite the same here. Decoration starts in November. Houses are full with Christmas lights inside and out. The trees are everywhere just like other ornaments. When it comes to cookies, (no lying) I HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT MANY. People are throwing cookie exchange parties early in December and that is just one of the reasons why exchange students gain a lot of weight in the year abroad. And I am not talking about the experience here…

The best part of my Christmas preparation was definitely making the Gingerbread houses with my sister. It was my first ever, and I believe I did I very good job.

The real celebration began on Christmas Eve with a family party. Because I switched my host family about a month ago, I decided to accept the invitation to a family event with them. There was more than 25 people, all the grandparents and aunts, cousins and other family friends. We ate shrimps with cheese, which are apparently quite popular here for Christmas. Cookies and 165940 pies followed, so not going home completely full is not an option. We also played a traditional present exchange called a ‘White elephant’. Each participant bought a gift and wrapped it. We were given a number and in that order we had to choose gifts. They can be stolen three times so if you are getting a crumby or awesome gift, is all up to luck. I got a speaker so I am pretty lucky I suppose.

After the game I got picked up and taken to Christmas Eve Church service. Even though that is not something we would do at home, it was a great experience and I am glad I was able to go.

The next morning it was time for opening the gifts. Christmas is not about gifts, but we are teenagers so we can not put that completely aside. I even got MY OWN STOCKING above the fireplace. It was my first ever!!!! A huge breakfast with bacon, French toast and fresh berries followed and I felt like carrying three food babies by then. Around noon we dressed up and went to grandma’s house for a big lunch. I am mentioning food so much for a reason. There really is too much of everything and meals are the center of attention.

We finished the night with some cheesy Christmas movies and with a ride around the most decorated streets in Scottsdale. SUCH A FUN DAY!

Before the winter break, I thought December was going to be the hardest month of all, because it has been almost 6 months without seeing my family, and I have never been away from them for so long. Surprisingly, it was not. Everyone is generally nice and is treating me as a part of the family. I feel at home and so happy to be surrounded by such amazing people.

Hope all of you had amazing holidays as well and I guess it is not too early anymore to wish you a happy new year!

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