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Christmas is about love, no matter where in the world you are

For most of my life, I have celebrated Christmas in one part of the world. My Minnesotan

Christmas was always something I looked forward to. I loved getting involved with the church

on Christmas day, having snow, and the quirky traditions that my family developed over the


The Christmas I experienced in Denmark — and will soon be experiencing in Germany — was definitely a bit different. Christmas in Northern Europe is intense, and there are all sorts of traditions to be followed. It may just be because of my situation in the U.S., but here I was thrown into a world of Christmas markets, holiday parties and family gatherings. I learned what it felt like to be included by people who took me in for the holidays.

Though Europe and the United States are much different in terms of religion — people in the U.S. actually go to church and practice Christianity, but Europe is more influenced by religion in its culture and traditions. The one thing they do share in common, though, is a huge focus on Christmas, and I think there is plenty of reason for that.

The birth of Christ, combined with the traditions of various communities, brings reason to celebrate. The course of a religion took a new path, in the form of a dark-skinned Jew born

to a poor teenager who led a life that defied most of what the world had to offer. He provided

people with a model on how to live, one that was based on selflessness and love. The birth and life of one person changed the fate of humanity, and it still bonds cultures, religious or not.

At a first glance, how we celebrate this might seem a little weird. However, from my

experience, Christmas has been less about the commercial image it has in the U.S. and more

about love. I couldn't name what I received for Christmas gifts most years, but I still remember

the different stops along the route when delivering meals with my dad on Christmas day, and the excitement my dad's cinnamon rolls created on Christmas morning.

In Denmark, I was selflessly taken into a family that included me in their Christmas. They

included me in all the traditions, from dancing around the Christmas tree to trying pickled

herring. I won't forget the Great Aunt — whom I didn't know — remembering a Christmas gift for

me, or my host father slipping me the almond when we had risalamande (the person who got

the almond got a small present). It didn't matter that I was away from home, I was with people

who cared about me and wanted me to be a part of their celebration. To me, that was the

most loving act of all.

As I write this, I am about to partake in a German Christmas. My former English teacher in

Denmark (who lives in Germany) took me in for the holidays. They threw a large Christmas

party for their friends, where they had a potluck of sorts, and the highlight of the night was the

Kahoot quiz that they had for fun. They are genuinely happy to have me—as the youngest said,

"We need a Holly, because it's a holiday!"

Yesterday, my Danish host family drove down to my town spontaneously, and treated me as if I was their actual daughter they were visiting. Their kindness brought me to tears. Christmas in Europe has shown me incredible love and inclusion more than anything else, and the love that Jesus epitomizes has been shown to me in different families.

I've learned that Christmas actually is about love and inclusion, no matter where you celebrate it. I got a glimpse of that in Minnesota at my church, and I was, and continue to be, a recipient of it in Europe. This holiday, which has been used by Christianity to celebrate the birth of God in human form, has warmed my heart.

I know that when this is published, Christmas will have passed. However, I hope that you are all

able to find a lot of love and family memories this holiday season.