In Mieceszslaw’s second blog post, he tells us about his experience celebrating Christmas in the United States and how the holiday traditions in the U.S. are different and similar to the ones in Poland. Miecio is an F-1 student at Bishop McLaughlin High School, in Florida.

By Mieczyslaw, 2016-17 F-1 High School Program Participant

The difference between the culture in Poland and United States are pretty obvious, but what about Christmas? Everyone loves Christmas, as everyone waits for the holiday with much anticipation. I have to admit as a student probably I was looking forward to it even more than everything else. Don’t misunderstand me, I love this school and friends who I spend time with, but Christmas is the time of the year which I absolutely love. Christmas songs, presents, atmosphere and many other things makes the end of December unforgettable. At least that’s how I felt in Poland. Was it different here? Yes it was. But it wasn’t worse, it was a little bit different which made it even better than other Christmases I had in my life.

I was really surprised – how can you have a Christmas spirit without snow? I  don’t remember any December in Poland without snow. That’s how I feel gifts under Christmas tree are coming, because of the snow. But I was wrong. You could feel it’s coming already on Black Friday so the day after Thanksgiving. Already three weeks before Christmas, plastic Christmas trees appeared in our Florida house. Of course I commented how funny and weird is to have a plastic tree, so it wasn’t even a week when we went to buy some “normal” tree especially for me :). That was absolutely amazing how my host family tried to make me feel like I was back in Poland.

So here we can see already two differences: 1-No snow and 2- Not a “normal” Christmas tree, but it’s not everything. I was thinking a very long time about why in the United States every kid gets a gifts day after Christmas Eve ( I still have no clue.). I can understand many things here which are much better than Poland, but I still don’t know whose idea that was. Probably you’re thinking, what’s wrong with that? I’ll tell you what. After every child realizes that gifts will appear on Christmas morning, they’re going to sleep very early and they’re waking up at 5 in the morning! I remember myself going to sleep at 5 but waking up I think it’s absolutely barbarity.

One week before Christmas Eve, Dylan, the youngest son in the family, came from school with a small brochure explaining how Christmas looks in other countries. Of course the first thing I did was ask a if there is something about Poland. You can’t imagine how surprised I was when I’ve heard ”Yes, there is.” So my brain started working on a higher level than normal just to guess what this brochure is saying about Polish people. There was only one simple sentence: “Polish people on Christmas Eve like to eat a lot.” Incredible how simple and very accurately a sentence can explain Polish Christmas tradition.

In Poland the most important day of Christmas is Christmas Eve, when the whole family sits in the same table to eat dinner together. What I’ve seen in the United States is much more importance on Christmas Day. I understand it’s mainly because of presents. However, spiritually, it is the day that Christ was born. The three kings gave Jesus presents.

At the end I want to say Christmas was an absolutely wonderful time and I’m so happy and grateful how amazing it was. That’s why I want to thank my host family which made this time as great a Christmas as I have experienced, on Christmas Eve, or Christmas itself.

Learn more about the F-1 High School Program here.