Trading Holiday Traditions

Ben and Guille with our Christmas tree

Contributed by Shannon Thompson, NOD Vice President

The winter holidays are a special time of year for many American families, and a wonderful time to share family traditions.

Guille at St. Paul Farmer's Market
Guille at St. Paul Farmer's Market picking out a tree

This year as a first-time NOD host family, our family is having fun learning more about how our exchange student, Guillermo, and his family celebrates the holidays and to engage him in our traditions. He helped us to pick out and decorate our Christmas tree, has become part of our gift exchanges, checked out some of the festive holiday decorations in our neighborhood, and is looking forward to a long winter break from school.

We’ve also been talking about how Guille celebrates with his family at home in Spain. We learned that it is common for families to exchange lottery tickets for Christmas, and about the countdown to the new year that includes some fast grape-eating. We’re excited to see what Guille thinks about our holiday meals (he’s been known to congratulate us for particularly good meals!) and will ask if he wants to make something that is a particular holiday favorite back home.

Guille placing the angel on top of the tree
Each year one of the Thompson's three kids gets the honor of placing the angel on top of their Christmas tree once it is fully decorated. This year, they all agreed that Guille should be the one to do it!

If you haven’t done so yet, open up a conversation about what holidays you and your exchange student celebrate and how. Spend some time together getting things ready for the holidays by decorating the house, frosting cookies or shopping. The holidays offer a great opportunity for learning about each other’s foods and traditions.

Remember, students may have questions about what is expected of them during the holidays or school vacations. Clarify what your family’s plans are and what the student’s role will be in family chores or activities during that time. Talking openly about expectations before a big event can help prevent misunderstandings. Students may be missing their families and friends more than normal during this time of year, so making a conscious effort to include your student and their culture in family plans can be very meaningful.

As always, the NOD team welcomes any questions or concerns that students or host families have about their experiences. We wish you all a joyous holiday season!


The Thompson family and Guillermo, of Spain (in black)
The Thompson family and Guillermo, of Spain (in black)

Shannon Thompson is our Vice President at NOD. She and her husband Jon, and their three children, Julia, Josh, and Ben are hosting Guillermo, a boy from Madrid, Spain this school year.