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Christmas holidays in Eindhoven
20 december 2007 - Eindhoven is contending with a rather dull image; even in the jolliest season there is alleged to be little going on in the city. This is why many international students and staff members do not wait for the holidays, but move out in large numbers so as to spend them elsewhere. Some foreign TU/e students and staff members do stay in Eindhoven during their Christmas holidays, though. For these stay-at-homes, some international students are unfolding their Eindhoven experiences during the Christmas holidays and are showing that the city may have something to offer for all and sundry during the festive season.

Caecialia Vitasari and Aneez Ahmed

For Caecialia Vitasari this will be the second Christmas holidays she will spend in Eindhoven. The Master student of Chemical Engineering from Indonesia explains: “There was an ice-rink at the center, just like there is this year. I didn’t try it then, but maybe this time I will.” One thing she will definitely not venture onto is the snow ramp. Last year it was located at the Piazza, but this year it can be found between Heuvel Galerie and Stratumseind. “I just like to watch people sliding, I wouldn’t go up there myself.”
The said activities are organized by the municipality of Eindhoven under the title of ‘Eindhoven Winterstad’. Although the Master student visited many of these wintry activities last year, she had still missed one: the Ice Sculpture Festival. This year she made sure of visiting this already, together with the Indian Aneez Ahmed, a Master student of Mathematics and Computer Science. “To be frank I did not expect much, so having gone there without much expectation, it was a pleasant surprise.” Caecialia shares Aneez’ opinion: “It was wonderful!”, she says enthusiastically. “There are some famous buildings and statues from all over the world, among others the Pantheon, pyramids and the Colosseum. And you can also take a walk on the Chinese great wall.” However, she does warn us: “You must be careful, it is a bit slippery.” Aneez adds: “It was quite cold inside and as I was not aware of this, I did not choose my footwear appropriately, hence felt uncomfortable in the cold.”
In addition to the various activities, Caecialia also enjoyed the Christmas decorations she saw in Eindhoven. “The shops look nice with a lot of decorations. Everybody here celebrates Christmas, very different from Indonesia where most people are Muslims; you can’t really tell the difference between the ‘normal’ and the Christmas season.”

Christmas decorations may be found in more countries; there are a few things that really belong typically to a Dutch Christmas and New Year’s Eve. “A friend told me about ‘oliebollen’, so I tried them. And I don’t like them”, Caecialia confesses. What she does like, is the Dutch ‘kerststol’: “Last year I had a Christmas party where they served ‘kerststol’. It tasted great! I liked it so much I bought one for myself.”

Photos: Bart van Overbeeke

Wanda Chrisiana and María Dolores Lara Proaño

Apart from visiting the activities in town, you can of course also organize your own activities. That is what Wanda Chrisiana, Vryan Palma and María Dolores Lara Proaño (‘Loly’ for short) did; during last year’s Christmas holidays they held a party for their international fellow students. The Indian Wanda Chrisiana, a Master student of Technology Management (on the right in the photo), says: “I was just talking to friends about how we spend Christmas with our family, giving presents to each other. We wanted to do that here also.”
Loly, an Ecuadorian Master student of Business Information Systems (on the left in the photo): “We organized the party for the international students that were going to stay here and wanted to join us. We came up with the idea for an international dinner: a lot of people participated with food that was typical of their countries. We organized the ‘secret friend game’: everybody got a paper with someone else’s name. Along with buying the present you had to write a description about that person, which was read by him or her during the party. That was great fun!”
Possessing expert experience, Wanda and Loly also have some tips for people who want to organize their own party. Wanda: “Invite as many people as you know; if you invite one hundred persons, only fifty will come. Make a nice invitation and don’t stress that people are required to do things. We wanted everybody to bring something, but we asked nicely”, says Wanda with a smile. “Also make sure there is good music.” Loly: “When I hear party, I immediately relate it with dancing - it is really part of my culture. With dancing you break the ice between people and express your happiness.”
Although last year’s party was a success, Wanda and Loly are not sure whether they can continue it this year. Wanda: “There aren’t many international students who are staying in Eindhoven this year, so we are not sure about a party.“
Do they have any advice for people staying in Eindhoven? Loly: “To the ones that will celebrate Christmas far from home, I advise to look at the positive side, which is the opportunity to have a different celebration in a very nice and friendly country. There are many things to do during Christmas here in Holland.”

Mauritz Panggabean

For some the Christmas period is one of welcome rest, in which they have extra time for friends and relatives. To a large number of students and staff members it also means a time for reflection, in which they devote extra attention to their faith. Mauritz Panggabean, a Master student of Electrical Engineering: “I’d like to use this time for thanksgiving for all the blessing I’ve been receiving this year as well as reflection for next year. Christmas has profound meanings to my Christian faith as it centers on the miraculous birth of Christ written in history. Christmas is essentially a proclamation of God’s love to a sinful world, good news prophesied for ages to those who have been waiting for the salvation and true peace from the Lord.”
Although Mauritz cannot spend the holidays with his family, he has a bright look on the Christmas holidays: “Studying in Eindhoven marks me being far away from family and home. Therefore this Christmas is a unique spiritual and cultural experience for me, a time for thanksgiving, reflection, refreshment and fellowship with good friends since they become my family now. Attending Christmas services at church is, of course, a prime and good way to spend the Christmas break. But, as faith should be practical, I’ll spend the Christmas break in ways that honor Him together with friends or individually. I haven’t got any defined plans yet, but I’m sure things to do will get clearer as time goes by.”
It will be the second time for the Indian Master student to spend the Christmas holidays in Eindhoven. “It seems how I celebrated Christmas last year won’t be too different from this time. I know that there are churches in Eindhoven that hold Christmas services, also in English. I think it’s a good thing to start to attend it. Meeting the people there may later lead to other unexpected fun activities, if we have no plan in mind.”/.

Various churches in Eindhoven offer English-language prayer services. Look for more information from the various parishes on (Binnenstads parochie; Dutch-language), (Heilig Hart Parochie; Dutch- and English-language) en www.trinity church (Trinity Church Eindhoven; English-language).