How Do UM Members from Different Countries Celebrate Christmas?

Text:UM Reporter Yuki Huang, Trainee UM Reporter Aria Li │ Photo:Editorial Board, with some provided by the interviewees │  Issue 94 December My UM

Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Jingle all the way…Christmas is just around the corner. How do UM faculty members and students from different countries celebrate Christmas in their home countries?

Olli Manninen loves the Christmas atmosphere in his RC

Hot Finnish Sauna Followed by Icy Cold Water

Finnish people believe that Santa Claus lives in Korvatunturi in Finnish Lapland (the northern part of Finland). Olli Manninen, an exchange student from Santa’s hometown, recalls the Christmas holidays he has spent in Finland, with one tradition standing out in his memory. ‘We have more saunas than cars in Finland! On Christmas Eve morning, we will take a sauna and jump into a frozen lake to cool ourselves down. Christmas sauna is a tradition in Finland that goes back over a century’ says Manninen.

Sousada Sirimanothai celebrates Christmas with her family members

Enjoying a Simple Delicious Christmas Dinner

Sousada Sirimanothai, from Laos, is a fourth-year student in the Department of Management and Marketing. He says, ‘What’s special about Christmas celebration in Laos is that we don’t need Christmas trees, gifts, or even Christmas carol. A simple yet delicious Christmas dinner with family and friends is more than enough. That is why we also celebrate Christmas even though we are Buddhists.’ For Sirimanothai, enjoying a peaceful and joyful Christmas holiday is about spending quality time with family members and expressing their love for one another. That is Sirimanothai’s idea of a perfect Christmas holiday.

Joao Miguel at a Christmas Mass (1st from left)

Christmas Mass

Christmas is one of the most important holidays in the Philippines. Preparations for the holiday usually start as early as September. Joao Miguel, from the Philippines, is a second-year student in the Department of Computer and Information Science. He and his family have been living in Macao for 18 years. Every Christmas Eve, they go to the church together to attend Simbang Gabi, which is a Filipino Christmas tradition. (Simbang Gabi is a series of nine dawn masses on the days leading up to Christmas. It begins on 16 December and ends at midnight on the 24th of December, when a midnight mass is held). Miguel says, ‘On Christmas Day, we usually invite loved ones for dinner where we exchange Christmas gifts that symbolise our best wishes for each other.’ Miguel keeps a diary, and every Christmas, he reads the entries he recorded in the past year to take stock of his life.

Left:It’s common that the Santa Claus figures in Australia are in summer outfits holding skateboards
Right:Timothy Kerswell

A Summer Christmas

But Christmas is not always snowy, as often depicted on TV or posters. As Prof Timothy Kerswell in the Department of Government and Public Administration, who comes from Australia, will tell you, Christmas celebration in Australia takes place in the summer. Dr Kerswell has lived in Macao for six years. He remembers fondly how Australians decorate the streets and their homes with Christmas trees, Santa Claus figures, and fake snowflakes and snowmen to create the feel of cold winter, in amusing contrast to the scorching summer weather.

This year, Prof Kerswell plans to accompany his Indian wife to her home country for Christmas. He wishes all UM members a merry Christmas and a happy holiday!