The Friday before Thanksgiving we held our annual Chi Alpha Internationals (XAi) Holiday Dinner, which is basically the most amazing holiday ever. It combines Thanksgiving and Christmas into one glorious night!
A couple American volunteers along with girls from Italy, Russia, and Japan
We begin with a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy (no one tried to drink the gravy this year), green beans, and cranberry sauce (which Elisa’s mom, who’s in town from Italy, fell in love with). We topped it all off with scrumptious pumpkin and apple cobblers.
During dessert, I shared the Christmas story. My favorite way to approach it is to strongly connect the wise men/magi from the east with the international students since most of them are “from the east.” I’ve read that one of the reasons Matthew doesn’t specify a country is that he wants the magi to represent any foreigner seeker of Jesus—my Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Burmese friends. If they can seek Jesus, why can’t any of us?
This Chinese woman is the mother of a PhD student who recently came to Christ. She ALSO recently came to Christ (in the last year) and now leads a house church in her university town. Many of her professorial colleagues come and several have already become Christians!
We then went on to a variety of fun activities: watching A Charlie Brown Christmas (only 17 minutes without commercials!), making Christmas cookies, and decorating our Christmas tree.
We have them roll out the dough and cut out the cookies
Then we bake them and give them back to decorate
And beautiful/delicious results ensue!
One of my favorite things is that we finish the tree decorating station by discussing Christmas traditions. I explain about what many Americans do. From the religious (we put angels or stars on top of the tree to symbolize the things that guided people to Jesus) to the secular (“Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?”). But one of the most fun is to ask about traditions in other countries. Did you know that most other cultures say that Santa doesn’t live at the North Pole, but in Norway? In Italy, the night before Epiphany (January 6th, the celebration of the coming of the magi) an old woman on a broom (not a witch, though, Elisa says) named Befana brings children candy for their stockings. In Russia, Santa Claus is called Father Frost and is connected with New Years, not Christmas. In Indonesia, Christian children worry about being bad because otherwise Santa’s counterpart, Black Pete, will come and steal them in his bag! It was a ton of fun hearing about how Christmas is different all over the world. And of course, we finished with the most famous Christmas song around the world: Jingle Bells!