By Rebecca Morin, The Daily Iowan
Christmas was always celebrated in University of Iowa junior Gloria Chang’s family, a native of Singapore. But after arriving in the United States, Chang had one small culture shock — the Christmas feast.
“One funny thing I’ve noticed is [my family] has turkey for Christmas, but it seems like people here have ham instead,” Chang said. “That’s the first thing I picked up.”
Bridges International will host a Christmas party for all UI students on Friday at the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center to introduce American traditions to all who attend. The group is part of Iowa City for Campus Crusade for Christ’s international ministry.
“I only joined this semester and started going to events and getting to know the people,” said Chang, who transferred from a school in Malaysia. “I thought it’s going to be on the last day of classes, and it’s a nice way to get out of school.”
The party will allow students to partake in Christmas traditions practiced domestically, as well as discuss the meaning of celebrating Christmas.
“They will get to do traditional things like make gingerbread houses and sing Christmas carols,” said Ashley Croghan, a staff member at Bridges International. “But we’ll also discuss the spiritual side and meaning, and why we celebrate it.”
University of Iowa junior Weichen Jin said she did not celebrate Christmas until she came to study in the United States, but she has for the past several years.
“I didn’t [celebrate Christmas] back in China, but I did several times since I’ve been here,” Jin said. “Sometimes, I would just hold a party with my friends or visit American families with my American friends.”
Some students who have celebrated Christmas in their home country have noticed some differences about the popularity of the holiday.
“Here it’s more of a cultural thing,” Chang said. “Back home, Christmas is just another holiday — we do have Christmas sales — but I have friends who don’t celebrate it.”
One Bridges International leader said she loves being able to interact with international students, as well as the spontaneity they bring to conversations.
“I’m going to the Bridges International Christmas Party because not only am I a leader of Bridges and kind of required to go, I actually want to go,” UI senior Kaitlyn Gonzales said. “I love hanging out with international students — they are full of surprises and have lots of questions.”
Although a Christmas party was hosted last year, it was only for female students. This year officials are expanding the party by making it co-ed.
“Last year we did it just for women, but this year it’s co-ed,” Croghan said. “International students are here, and they want to know and experience American holidays.”
Gonzalez said the party will stick to traditional holiday celebration and the meaning of Christmas.
“I don’t think there will be any different customs at the party,” Gonzales said. “I’m sure there will be food, songs, maybe gifts, and the sharing of why [Bridges International staff, leaders, and some international students] celebrate Christmas.”