QUEENS COUNTY, NS - For Maya Plötzer, Carlotta Contis and Miranda Perez, this Christmas will be their first in Nova Scotia.
The three teens are international students attending Liverpool Regional High School and being hosted in Brooklyn. While some Christmas traditions in Nova Scotia resemble what they know at home, there are definitely some differences.
Eighteen-year-old Perez says Christmas where she’s from is similar to Nova Scotia. Born and raised in Mexico, Perez is used to Christmas trees and similar decorations.
She says the big difference is instead of opening presents in the morning on Christmas Day, she grew up celebrating on Christmas Eve. Her family opens gifts just after midnight on Dec. 25.
“I’m Catholic, so I went to church (Dec.) 24 in the night and then (Dec.) 25 in the morning,” said Perez.
Contis, 18, is from the south of Italy and says Christmas traditions in the north, where she now lives, are different. Originally from Sardinia, Contis now lives in Turin.
“All my relatives are in Sardinia,” said Contis. “For us, Christmas is on the 24th of December, but we open the presents on the 25th, in the morning.”
Contis says her whole family – about 40 people – gather and hang out together Christmas Eve. At midnight, her older relatives go to midnight mass.
“We stay up all night, and then the day after we go home and we open the presents,” she said.
Contis spends Christmas Day with her immediate family – her parents and siblings.
She says while there’s no traditional Christmas meal, there’s lots of food. A couple of traditional Christmas desserts include pandoro and panettone. The BBC describes pandoro as sweet bread, similar to a golden bread, and resembles a cake. The second dessert, panettone, is also sweet bread with candied citron, lemon zest and raisins. Milan and Venice are well known for these treats.
“The first thing I noticed was the decorations are way bigger,” said Plötzer, 14. “We decorate in Germany – we have a Christmas tree and stuff – but how you decorate your house is in a way bigger way than we do it in Germany.”
Similar to Perez and Contis, Plötzer’s family also celebrates Christmas on Dec. 24.
“We get all of our presents then, and we have a big Christmas dinner with our closest family,” she said.
The following day, Dec. 25, the tradition is to visit extended family and have another Christmas dinner.
The enjoyment of Christmas
“Presents,” chimed all three girls when asked what they like about the holiday.
“And food,” added Perez. “Presents and food.”
“Snow,” said Contis. “I don’t really have snow, so I hope it’s going to be snowy here.”
Each of them agrees they also like being with their families at Christmas. Despite the fact she won’t be with her family, Perez says she’s very excited to spend Christmas with a new host family and international sisters.
“I’m excited because it’s new,” said Contis.
But Contis says she’s also a little said because she won’t be with her family. She says in Italy, family is everything.
“I’m excited, too, especially because on the morning of the 25th I can go downstairs in my pajamas and open presents,” said Plötzer.
Perez lives in the dessert, so she sees no snow at home. When it snowed Dec. 13, she put her boots and jacket on and went straight outside in her pajamas.
Plötzer is from the west of Germany, near Cologne and close to the Netherlands. Snow is, therefore, something she’s accustomed to.
There is snow and flurries in the forecast, so on Dec. 25, Plötzer, Contis and Perez may very well be outside in their pajamas celebrating their first Queens County Christmas.