Interview. Christmas time this year is especially difficult for international students. Some can go home, others have to stay in Germany, be it for travel restrictions or for personal safety concerns. Alyona has been in Germany for two years now and is one of those that couldn’t go home to their family, who are in Russia, for a year now. We spoke to her about holiday traditions, her family and how she spends her first German Christmas.
:bsz: You told me you can’t go home for Christmas because of the travel restrictions. How important is Christmas for you and your family?
Alyona: In Russia we don’t celebrate Christmas but we celebrate New Year’s Eve where we always sit together with a big family. My parents, my grandparents, siblings and we also invite friends. Normally, it’s like 15 people around the table and a lot of celebrations. It has been like that for my whole life. And this year, I’m going to celebrate with my friends. I’m so happy I have that opportunity because otherwise I would sit completely alone in my appartment and like, watch something. I was still hoping to come home for Christmas before the second wave started.
For many Germans, the holidays are a time of contemplation and quietness. Is that similar in Russia?
No! (laughs) The whole thing is that we start preparing in the morning of 31st of December and the whole day we’re making salads, cooking and everyone is helping. It’s always a really funny occasion when we’re cooking everything for New Year’s Eve! Then at 12, there’s a big clock in Moscow at the Kremlin and everyone’s listening to the twelve beats of the clock and starts to cheer and drink. When you’re in family you don’t drink when you’ve got kids. But a lot of my friends are celebrating with friends and then they just get drunk and eat.
So, how do you spend the holidays with your friends this year then?
For Christmas I’m invited to the house from my friend from university, she’s German. She’s celebrating with her grandparents and doesn’t have a big family, so she invited me. Her grandparents also come from Russia. They invited me and we’re gonna spend Christmas, my first Christmas in Germany, together and I will have the opportunity to be with the small family I have here. And for New Year’s I’m going to Braunschweig with a few international friends.
Did you meet friends in the past months or is that the first time you will have some social contact again?
Summer was pretty chill. I was able to meet friends. It was not like normal, but better than in the spring. This past two, three months however, it’s been a disaster. I’ve been sitting home for two months straight and at the beginning, there was no university. Normally in the evening I would just go and drink some coffee or to have dinner with friends, but now it’s not possible. So for New Year’s Eve and for Christmas I expect to have a little more emotions than I’ve had in the past months!
Is there anything else you want to mention?
I sent a package to my family and bought a lot of things that they could like. My mom is obsessed with Germany and she’s actually learning German right now! I’m probably studying here because she’s obsessed with Germany. (laughs) They actually wanted to come to me. They were also hoping that the situation would get better. I thought that if they came my mum and my dad would be so happy to see all the Christmas bakeries and decorations, we don’t have that in Russia. I bought a little bit of sweets like Lebkuchen and a lot of great stuff. I hope they will be happy to get something!
How long are you going to stay in Germany?
I’ve got my visa until September 2021 but I’m not going to be finished with university by then so I’m going to get an extention.
Okay, so maybe next Christmas they can hopefully come here.
Yes, I hope so! I bet there are a lot of people whose plans were crashed. So I just want to wish everyone that next year, we will have greater opportunities. It must be better than this year!
Das Gespräch führte :Stefan Moll