The Saint Leo Athletics family includes 83 student-athletes from 31 different countries around the world. With Christmas upon us, here are a few of our international student-athletes telling the stories of their favorite parts of the holiday season:
Sr. | Women's Golf
Christmas in Germany
Going home for Christmas break is always a special time of the year. Not only do I get to see my family after a long fall semester, but I also get to experience the Christmas markets with my friends. At the beginning of December, many different vendors open up their stores in the downtowns of the cities to sell all different kinds of merchandise, such as self-made Christmas gifts, clothes, and jewelry. However, the best part about the markets is meeting up with friends and enjoying all kinds of homemade food and drinks. My personal favorite is a drink called "Glühwein," which is a hot wine punch and a long tradition in Germany. Besides the "Glühwein," one of my favorite foods at a Christmas market is "Flammkuchen," which almost looks like a pizza but with thinner dough and bacon, sour cream, and onions on top. For dessert, you can never go wrong with a freshly made crepe. Throughout the month of December, visiting a Christmas market is one of the main traditions in Germany and they help get everybody in the mood for the holiday at the end of the month.
Jr. | Men's Tennis
Christmas in Chile
What I like the most about Christmas is meeting up with my whole family - there are a lot of us - and hanging out. We usually meet at my aunt's house around 6 p.m., and we start getting the house ready for everyone to come over. Instead of cooking one meal, we have every member of the family make whatever they want and bring it to the house. That way we have a lot to eat, and we can share with everyone. After we finish dinner, we hang out in the backyard of my aunt's house for a while, and we start playing the Djembes (an African instrument that is like a drum) and singing and drinking. When midnight is close, we make everyone go to the living room next to the Christmas tree to start the present-opening ceremony. We don't give presents to everyone because there are too many of us. What we do is we play "secret friend," that way we give one gift and we receive one present. I don't know why, but I always receive tennis balls. We don't give expensive gifts; we don't believe that giving expensive stuff is the Christmas spirit. When we finish the present ceremony, it is already 12:30 a.m. The old members of the family are usually tired and go to bed, but the young members usually stay for a while, hanging out and having fun. That's what I call a GREAT CHRISTMAS.
Fr. | Volleyball
Christmas in Italy
In Italy, Christmas starts the 24th of December. Usually, there is a dinner with all the relatives. The menu consists of fish, cocktail shrimps, codfish, pasta with seafood, pandoro, and we drink wine. After the dinner, there is the midnight mass that we all attend. Then during the night, Santa Claus arrives for the kids. On the morning of December 25th, we attend another mass, and after that there is lunch with all the relatives. This time, the menu is composed of lasagna or tortellini, a roast, spinach, mashed potatoes, green beans, bread, and wine. The dessert always changes, but usually, in my family, we decide to have tiramisu. After the lunch, everybody exchanges presents with their relatives. The party is long, and usually we stay in the dining room until 9 p.m. The 26th of December is St. Stefano Day. St. Stefano is a day where people wrap up and go out with friends and family, and there is usually a family lunch based on cannelloni, meat, and vegetables.
I help with the food preparation because I like cooking, especially baking, but not everybody does. In my family, my grandma, my dad, and my uncle are usually the people that cook the dinner or the lunch, but almost everybody brings something to eat from home. The chef for dinner the day before Christmas is my dad. My grandma, my uncle, and my father prepare the Christmas lunch, and my grandpa and grandma make the lunch for the day after Christmas. I usually bake something like tiramisu or some special cake. I think that every family has different traditions, so I cannot tell how the typical Italian Christmas is celebrated - but I like the way in which I celebrate it with my family.
So. | Women's Basketball
Christmas in Sweden
As a women's basketball student-athlete, with our schedule, I miss the Christmas traditions I have with my family. The traditions within my family are a mix between Swedish and Danish as I'm Danish from my mother's side. We wake up in the morning on the 24th of December, and we get a small gift in our Christmas stocking. After opening that gift from 'Santa,' we eat breakfast before we go and get dressed. At 3 p.m., we watch Donald Duck, and at 4 p.m., we start eating our food. My mother will have cooked for days to get everything ready. We start off by eating fish. We eat eels, lobster, shrimp, trout, and salmon. When we are done eating our fish dishes, we go over to eat our meat: Swedish meatballs, sausages, lamb, duck, chicken, and ham. When we have finished that, we move on to our dessert, but we usually take a break before getting started. For dessert, we eat rice pudding with crushed almonds in it - but we keep one whole almond in the dessert. The person receiving the whole almond wins and gets the small almond gift that was bought beforehand.
After we have eaten all this food, we move into the living room, and we start opening our Christmas gifts. We take one at a time, and we all look at the person unwrapping their Christmas gift. We are usually not done until 10-11 p.m., but it's not all about the gift itself but the fact that we are all sitting together, having a good time, talking and enjoying each other's company. On Christmas Day, we eat the leftovers and spend time with each other as well.
The thing I miss the most about Christmas is my family and how we all spend time together. The snow makes it feel so much warmer and cozier inside when we are eating gingerbread cookies and drinking mulled wine. I also miss the food and having that same tradition every year. But the new family we are creating here at Saint Leo makes it all worth it.
So. | Men's Soccer
Christmas in England
In England, I am sure that we have pretty similar Christmas traditions to the American people, but obviously, every person is unique in one way or another. Of course in England, the climate is extremely different to Florida which helps add to the "Christmassy" feel. My city is decorated throughout with Christmas lights and trees, and there are German Christmas markets in the city center which give it a real festive feel.
I will usually meet up with my immediate family on December 24th at our local church for a prayer and some Christmas caroling, which is encouraged by my grandmother and mother. We usually spend an hour or so at church, and then when we get out around 9 p.m. we will head back home and have some food and drinks with the family. In England, it is pretty common for people to head out with friends on Christmas Eve, so I usually try to meet some of my friends in town after I've spent some time at home. But before I go out and before my 6-year-old brother goes to bed, we put out a mince pie with milk for Santa and carrots for Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer below our stockings and hope it pays off in the morning.
When I wake up on Christmas Day, around 7:30 a.m., me and my family will all gather around the tree and watch each other open our presents one by one. My little brother usually has the majority of the presents which is enjoyable to watch as he is always excited and happy with his gifts.
Whilst my mum makes final preparations to the food for Christmas lunch, my brother, my sister, and I will just hang out, watch some movies, and eat snacks together. After lunch, I find myself pretty full and end up having a nap for a few hours. Once I wake up, I'll usually eat some more leftovers and spend the rest of the evening with the family playing board games and watching television.
In England, December 26th is another day to celebrate and we call it "Boxing Day." I'm not completely sure why it is referred to as this, but it is another national holiday. People make the most of their time off and spend it with the less-immediate family that you may not always see throughout the year and didn't see over Christmas. I usually spend it with my family for a while and then head to my friend Danny's house where they have an annual Boxing Day party with all of their family and close friends. This is the last of my festive celebrations, and then the next thing to look forward to is New Year's Eve.
From the coaches, staff, and student-athletes of Saint Leo University - Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!