For Moses Ikiugu, who is a professor in the department of occupational therapy at the University of South Dakota, Christmas is a celebration that rekindles memories of his country Kenya – elaborate mass at church on Christmas Eve, a huge extended family get- together, and a wide variety of foods. "The midnight mass ends around six in the morning. The Creshe is quite Africanized also; a thatched house built around the manger.
"We have a special goat for Christmas. This goat is domesticated for about a year before it's killed on Christmas Eve for a big traditional meal for Christmas. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ with our extended families – aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents besides parents and siblings Because this is a massive get-together, the main dish of goat meat goes along with other foods like chicken, beef, potatoes, vegetables, chapattis (flat bread) and rice." New clothes are worn for Christmas. People go to church in coat suits and wear new shoes. Everything that you are wearing has to be new. Parents buy clothes for their children to wear on Christmas."
Christmas is, says Wycklyffe Mogondo, also from Kenya, "a very religious festival for us. We celebrate Christmas with fervor and devotion. The 'Way of the Cross' is the custom in my part of the country in Matunda that prepares us for Christmas. The priest, a few days before Christmas, would choose a spot some miles from the church and people and members of the church would gather there. The priest would then carry the cross and walk to the church with others following him in a procession. This follows the rosary broken into different parts for worship at the church."
Roberto Gomez from Venezuela says Christmas is much louder in his country. "We celebrate Christmas in extended families and do a lot of partying, fireworks, and eating. The traditional Christmas food menu is extensive – bread stuffed Turkey, 'Empanadas' –corn meal meat pie (the pie has a half-circle shape, and it's usually stuffed with ground beef), Ham, 'Hallacas' – meat wrapped in corn dough and steamed in a banana leaf, and sweet rice made with cloves, cinnamon, and Nutmeg."
But good food doesn't come easy. "We have 'Novena' – nine days of worship – that culminates into Christmas. We pray together for nine successive days to thank God for the special graces and to obtain God's special favor."
For Amimul Ehsan, a Bangladeshi student at USD, Christmas reminds him of Bengali New year (Pohela Boishaka) celebrated on April 14. "We do a lot of fireworks and make traditional food such as 'Panta Ilish' – Hilsha fish with rice. Cooked rice is soaked in water overnight and then eaten with Hilshaw fish the following day. On this day, people wear clothes of red and green which represent the colors of the Bangladesh flag.
Another USD student, Tridib from India, says Christmas evokes 'Diwali' feelings for him – 'Deepavali' or 'Diwali' is the festival of lights and is one of the most important Hindu religious festivals. "We celebrate 'Deepavali' in families and decorate our homes with 'diyas' – small clay lamps. 'Diyas' are placed in varied shapes inside the house, and they are usually in rows outside the house. Sweets are also shared with friends and families on Diwali."