Tonight we will be attending a Christmas party for the Czech Exchange students at Kansas State University. Since we're an American Host Family for one or two of the students every year, we help with the food at this party. There'll be big pots of Vegetable Soup and Chili, cheese and relish trays and an assortment of Christmas cookies which I have baked this week.
Most of the Czech students have little or no religious background, so their Christmas celebrations are strictly commercial. But they have told us of some of their traditions at Christmas, and many extend back generations when the Czech people were a mostly Christian nation. And they know the Christmas Nativity story, but most of them consider it just that --a story. Sometimes seeds are planted when a story is told and retold.
We'll sing American Christmas carols after dinner.The one carol the students are familiar with is "Silent Night" which seems to be the universal Christmas song. They hear it more often in the original German, however. In past years, the students have gathered together and sung several Czech Christmas songs for us. It's then that the spirit of Christmas is so evident. The love and the giving that personifies the story of Christ's birth surround us, and another memory is made for these young people spending a year of their life in our country.
Every year, as I listen to them and watch their faces, it makes me wonder how many of them suddenly experience a little homesickness upon singing words so wrapped in their family and country tradition. There's no age limit on being homesick. Most of the students are 21 to 24 years old, not little kids, but I'm guessing they miss their families at this time of year a great deal. Many will not fly home for Christmas. Instead, they'll stay here in the USA and travel during the university break time. So tonight may be the only Christmas some of them have.