It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

by USjournal Student Writer: Rebecca Darrup, Cross-Country Cowgirl

Cold nips at your nose, toes, and fingers; streets are lined with piles of snow; decorations are hung in storefront windows; holiday music and carols float from every nearby loudspeaker. When I think of the holidays in the U.S., this is typically what crosses my mind. I know that Christmas and the holidays that occur close before and after it vary greatly from country to country, but it was kind of a surprise to me just how much of a difference there is even in my own country!

Now, a little bit of a disclaimer: I've been blessed enough to be able to go home for the holidays since I've been in college, despite being just about on the other side of the country, so I can't say that I've witnessed firsthand what the holidays are like down here in New Mexico. However, from talking to my friends and classmates, seeing their posts on social media, and being in the area during the time leading up to the holidays, I've gotten a feel for what the holidays are like here.

To be totally honest, there aren't a great number of differences in the way I grew up celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and the way those holidays are enjoyed in New Mexico. Halloween, which originates from several cultures and is based on warding off evil spirits, is a bit more popular, partly due to the Hispanic and Native American influences in the area. Costumes, candy, and pranks are even more in-depth and important than what they are back home in Pennsylvania.

Thanksgiving foods are quite a bit different in New Mexico than what they are in Pennsylvania, although some of the traditional foods can be found on the table in both places: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and ham, along with pumpkin pie and pecan pie, are more traditional, while enchiladas can also be found among the mix in New Mexico.

Christmas, on the other hand, just depends on what your family is like, and what your heritage is. My best friend in New Mexico, A'lia, says that she typically has Mexican food for Christmas: enchiladas, tamales, chile rellenos, rice, and beans. For me and my family, we stick with the traditional Polish foods: haluski, lobster, pierogi and ravioli, along with the same kinds of food we have at Thanksgiving. For Thanksgiving and Christmas both, everyone dresses up, is in good spirits, and brings the chatter!

The most important facet, though, of any holiday, no matter where you live, is the family. The holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas, are a time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, make sure any disagreements are settled, and truly just love one another. Thankfully, this has always been essential to most of my family, and I grew up with a very full house on every holiday occasion. Some of my family lives all across the United States now, which does make it quite a challenge to get everyone home for the same few days a couple times in a few months. I guess it runs in my family, seeing as I have family spread out all through California, Georgia, New York, and all around Pennsylvania, and I'm in college in New Mexico for now! Even more now, since I'm so far away from home, I've realized the value of the aromas of food and the ring of laughter filling the house, the smiles and teasing around the table, and the companionship and company of family, all the time, but particularly for the holidays.

One of the most beautiful aspects of both the culture I grew up in, as well as the culture I currently live in, is the mentality, particularly for the holidays, that there's always room for one more at the table.

Mesalands Community College Rodeo Team, 2016-17

Both of my grandmothers have said that for as long as I can remember, no matter if you give them advance notice, or tell them as you walk in the door: "Oh, this is my friend; I hope it's alright that we brought her along!" They'll be the first to give a big hug and make a person feel right at home... and ask why I didn't bring the rest of the team!

In my little corner of New Mexico, things are much the same -- except that hospitality stretches far beyond just a little corner of the state. From just a handful of the kids I rodeo with here in the northeast corner of New Mexico, I've been welcomed into homes all over New Mexico, from the northernmost parts to the farthest south, and as far west as southwestern Arizona. At the beginning of this semester, it seemed that there was a good chance I wouldn't be able to make it back to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving... I had offers from four or five rodeo kids that I could stay with them and their families.

Thankfully, I will be able to go home! One of the guys on the rodeo team is from New York, and we plan to fly home together. (It makes my mom feel better if I travel with someone), and my coach is willing to take care of my horses while I'm home.

Mesalands Community College Rodeo Arena

When it comes down to the bottom line, that's what the holidays are truly about. It's a willingness to help those in need, welcoming everyone into your home, and spreading love and goodwill. Take the time this year to give a hug, lend a helping hand, and share a smile and a meal with whoever you can!

Here are Rebecca's other posts, in case you missed them:

Best of luck in all your endeavors,
especially as you move forward on your college path!

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