Exchange students spend the holidays in southern Oklahoma
WILSON – For foreign exchange students, the holidays in southern Oklahoma are a mix of the familiar and the new.
Gabriel dos Santos, from Brazil, traditionally opens presents with his family on Christmas Eve. All of this happens after the family attends Rooster Mass.
"We are more religious and focus on the true meaning of Christmas with a nativity scene next to the tree and grandpa prays at midnight," said the junior exchange student.
Normally, the family doesn't go to sleep until 2 a.m.
On Christmas Day, they eat a large lunch, with turkey, pork and lasagna, due to a large number of Italian immigrants.
"I miss spending time with my family at Easter and Christmas," Santos said.
To bring Brazil to Oklahoma, Santos is attempting to make Brighdeiro, a Brazilian candy for his host
In Brazil, white Christmases never happen because Christmas is in the middle of students' summer break.
By coming to the United States, Santos has had a longer amount of cold weather, in addition to it being colder than he's ever seen.
"I'm getting used to the cold," Santos said. "I saw snow for the first time and made a snow angel. It was awesome, wet and cold."
New Year's Day is also a major holiday, as the school year is connected to the calendar year.
"We go to the beach, and everyone wears white. It means peace," Santos said.
Kim Gil Yeong, known to his classmates as freshman Jimmy Kim, is from South Korea, which he said shares many holiday traditions with the United States.
His family usually goes to a cousin's house on Christmas Eve and attends a church service on Christmas day.
They also open presents Christmas morning, but they do not eat a special meal as is common in the U.S.
While they will make rice cakes, rice is usually a part of Korean food every day.
Instead, Kim's family annually goes shopping at the mall together, since stores do not close for Christmas.
"Last year, I bought a Nintendo Wii," Kim said.
Students only get Christmas Day off from school.
"We rest only on Christmas," Kim said.