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From Spain, she has entered a Winter Wonderland

High school exchange student Ana Santamarina Fernandez loves snow and autumn leaves, two things she doesn’t see in her home city, La Coruna, Spain. Her host family, parents Greg and Tammy Haas, and daughter Brittany Haas, plan to take her skiing sometime this winter.

River Falls High school junior Ana Santamarina Fernandez has never had a white Christmas -- until now.

Santamarina Fernandez, 16, is an exchange student from Coruna, Spain, near the sea. Snow is never a part of the forecast.

“I’m just realizing that the snow is a lot of work, like you have to shovel and for driving there’s a lot of accidents and stuff, but it’s fun,” Santamarina Fernandez said. “I get excited every time I see snow.”

Santamarina Fernandez said last week she was excited to see her first white Christmas. She’s also excited to take part in another holiday tradition: Christmas cards.

Her host family, parents Tammy and Greg and daughter Brittany Haas, sent out traditional family Christmas cards this year, with photos of the family.

Santamarina Fernandez said that’s not a tradition in Spain, so she was fascinated with the process.

Santamarina Fernandez said she was also touched that the Haas family included her in their card’s photo collage.

While participating in another Christmas tradition with Brittany Haas -- trimming the tree -- Santamarina Fernandez discovered another small difference between Christmas in America and Christmas in Spain.

Santamarina Fernandez celebrates Christmas at home in La Coruna, complete with tree and ornaments, but she says American Christmas tree decorations are slightly different than Spanish ones.

In Spain, her family’s tree is decorated with ornaments bought from the store with no special meaning behind them. She said she enjoyed seeing the Haas’s ornaments while decorating the tree with Brittany.

“Here… every ornament means something,” Santamarina Fernandez said. “It was very fun to see.”

Santamarina Fernandez and the Haas family will visit the Haases’ relatives in Wausau this Christmas.

For the complete story, please see the Dec. 26 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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