Lena shares her experience celebrating Christmas in the USA:

Everybody says, that Christmas is the hardest time of the year as an AuPair, frankly, I also thought that because it’s the time of the year when the whole family comes together and as an AuPair you are so far away from home and your family. Fortunately, I have a great second family here in the USA, so it was not hard at all, it was a great but different Christmas celebration to the one I normally have in Germany.

A usual Christmas with my family in Germany starts with decorating the Christmas tree in the morning of December 24. It’s a real tree and not made out of plastic like many American ones. Afterwards we prepare everything for the Christmas dinner because that’s a lot of work we all have to help together. In the afternoon we dress up and go to church together with my grandparents. There we celebrate Jesus’ birth with many other residents of our village and since we only have 5000 inhabitants we know most of them in person. When the mass is over everybody meets in the churchyard for chatting and wishing each other a merry Christmas.

All the people are happy and the children are excited for the handing out of presents. I love this atmosphere because it’s filled with joy, communality and peace.

Back at home we make the last preparations for dinner and then we all eat together, my grandparents, my parents, my brother and I. The presents are packed under the Christmas tree and after dinner we get comfortable on the couch and sing Christmas songs together. You unpack the presents from the Christkind, which is our Santa Clause in Germany, and also the ones from your family. When I was a child a painted or tinkered something for everybody. Now I give away picture calendars and personal gifts. The rest of the evening we play board games or watch a movie together and that’s the best time of the day, it’s even better than the presents because you remind yourself how happy and thankful you are for each member of your family.

Lena O from Germany and her host family

December 25 and December 26 are also national holidays in Germany. On these days the rest of my family comes together, we meet my aunts, uncles and cousins.

So the biggest difference to the American Christmas is the date. With my host family I also went to church on December 24 and afterwards we also ate dinner with the grandparents but then we all went to bed. Surprisingly we didn’t have to tell the kids to go to bed because they explained to me they want to sleep early that they can get up as soon as possible because the handing out of presents is on December 25 in the morning.

Even before 7 o’clock the children were running and screaming through the house because they were so excited for their presents. Everybody got a stocking from Santa and also presents from the parents. For my youngest host child I sang his favourite songs on a CD and the older three I’ll invite to a fun evening with dinner, lasertag, and minigolf. In the afternoon the rest of my host family’s family came and on December 26 we went shopping because after Christmas the stores have good offers.

Overall the sense of Christmas is in both countries the same but as you’ve seen there are some significant differences. I enjoyed my first Christmas abroad and it wasn’t that hard as I expected it to be. Thanks to my awesome host family for that!