There was no snow in the streets. Around five o’clock my parents and my brother left our apartment. This day, all of them went together and without any hurry. Walking slowly, enjoying the mystical atmosphere, they passed a closed post office and a dark grocery shop without any customers inside. Perhaps they were talking about the design of new houses built in the neighborhood. Back at home, my father unwillingly put a nice shirt on. Mother started to fry the fish. Potato salad with mayonnaise was already prepared in the fridge. With all presents placed under the tree, the dinner could have started. A pie soup was served on the porcelain plates as the first dish.

This is how I imagine my family spent an evening on December 24th, the day we celebrate Christmas in the Czech Republic. At the same time almost 7000 kilometers away I was just enjoying my morning cereal. For the first time, I was spending Christmas away from home. For the first time, I was spending Christmas without customs, traditional food and my closest.

When my parents told me to decide whether they might provide me with an air ticket back home or vacation in America I had to think about both possibilities a lot. Finally, I decided to stay. I could not imagine coming to the Czech Republic just for a couple of weeks. After more or less successfully getting familiar with American culture I did not want to experience temporary cultural shock now in my own home country. So I went to New York.

Looking back, I am sure, staying in the US was the right decision and going to this city was an even better one. I spent my Christmas day with group of interesting people from all around the world, even from the Czech Republic. My Czech companion was another student from my home university, who studies in Massachusetts within the same program as I am here in Goshen. So my best Christmas present was expressing anything I wanted quickly, precisely and without annoying grammatical mistakes in my native language. What a pleasure.

I also very much enjoyed our Christmas dinner. It was as various as the states we came from – Brazil, China, Germany and Czech Republic. We had a vegan mixture of vegetables with Chinese fried sweet potato balls and chocolate and cocoa wafers from a Czech store, which we accidently found one afternoon.

This Christmas I did not get any new clothes, books or cosmetics. But I do not care. I got much more. I experienced many situations which enriched me as a human. Once again, here in America.