The Campus Chronicle staff share their holiday stories

Taylor Burns: Santa’s red bag of gifts

I take family traditions very seriously and when they don’t happen, I really feel like something is missing. Like I’m supposed to be doing something else.

A tradition that comes to mind is on Christmas Eve when my family visited  grandma’s house. When everyone was just finishing up eating dinner, we would wait in anticipation to open presents; every kid’s favorite part. Then, she would come into the living room with a bag. It honestly looked like the bag Santa would carry around, and she’d say, “Look what was left on the porch!” And like crazy children, anxiously await when she would call our name for the present Santa brought us.

The presents were sometimes wrapped, in what I can remember, cardboard-looking paper. You know, the brown, rustic-looking paper, which is how I always pictured Santa’s elves doing it as a child. They’d sometimes have a string around them too. It was perfect, and we went crazy. The adults would even get presents too. I think my grandma, the mastermind behind it all, would even buy herself one, just so we kids wouldn’t know it was her.

It was perfectly planned and the start to a great evening of time with family. Now, all grown up, I know presents are not the meaning behind Christmas at all, but at the time, it was perfect when Santa left his big bag of presents on my grandma’s porch on Christmas Eve.

 

Bailey Perkins: The passing of the “can”

Seventy-eight years ago a family tradition was born that would forever change how my family celebrated Christmas. “The Can” has made its circulation through four generations of Perkins and continues to make its rounds among three of those generations.

My great aunt gifted an ornate can of dusting powder to my great grandfather; the next year the same can appeared under the tree for my great aunt. Each subsequent year the can appeared under the tree as an extra gift for the brother or sister.

In 1963, a can appeared under the tree for the children of my great grandfather; the can then made its way to younger generations throughout the years.

The can has a set of rules that must be followed: Each can must stay within the generation to which it was first given, each gift must fit inside of the can, you may wrap it how you see fit, and it is inappropriate to ask who has your generation’s can.

The Can holds a lot of emotional and historical value to my family. It is a reminder of the challenges our family has overcome since we first settled in the Western United States. In 1939 the country was finally repairing itself from the Great Depression; money was still tight in the pockets of Americans and there wasn’t much to be given during the holiday season. This was a very real part of my families life, thus why the dusting can was originally gifted.

It is my hope that one day we can pass this tradition on to my generation’s children and pass the heart felt memories and stories it holds.

 

Hannah Rothamel: A four-family holiday

If you are also a child of divorce, then you definitely understand the holiday struggles! This year I’ll be spending thanksgiving with four families – father’s, mother’s, mother’s-without-extended-family, and brother’s all within a two day stretch.

All of these celebrations have manifested a few unique traditions. When visiting my mom’s side, my brother and I craft the perfect mixtape to get us through the exhausting drive. With my dad and his Irish catholic family, after enduring a lengthy mass you can expect heavy drinking and family bingo. It’s proved to be a dangerous combination. And with my brother and his girlfriend’s family, I’m typically having a great time until I crash and fall asleep during carols. They’re only a little offended.

What are the perks of celebrating holidays hundreds of times? Food, especially on Thanksgiving. But this is something you have to prepare yourself for. You can’t over do it at one party. Instead, you must pace yourself during each celebration, and prepare for the inevitable food coma on Saturday. Another perk is usually gifts. More parties equals more people around to give you stuff. Although, this also means more people you have to buy presents for. And finally, people. Even if you have to endlessly answer super personal questions like “Hannah, why aren’t you married yet?”, or maybe you have to celebrate one holiday four times just to please everyone, being with the people you love and enjoy totally makes up for it.

 

Barbara Fisher: The nativity switch-up

My mother has a beautiful nativity set, consisting of pieces given to her one at a time over many years by a dear friend who has since passed away.  Each Christmas she lovingly places each one in a manger decorated with evergreen boughs and fairy lights.  And each Christmas, my brothers and I strive to make a mockery of her efforts.

As we come to visit her home after her decorating is done, we will slip surreptitiously to the nativity, remove baby Jesus from his cradle, and hide him somewhere.

We then select some other character from the scene and stick him or her in the place of honor.

When we were children it was always the cow we put in Jesus’ spot.  “It’s a Hindu Christmas!” we would giggle, thinking we knew what we were talking about. Now it could be anything, from a lazy shepherd to a small blue light bulb.

She doesn’t look at the nativity very often after it’s set up, so it could be days before she notices the sacrilege we have wrought.

Then she’ll put the cow back in front of the hay, take baby Jesus off the roof and put him back where he belongs.

This is why we all check throughout the Christmas season to re-work our mischief.

That way, on Christmas morning, we will watch each other rip into packages and empty stockings, my mom smiling benevolently from behind her cup of coffee, while behind her Mary and Joseph gaze in wonder at a Ferrero Rocher chocolate.

When we started this we were naughty little kids.  Now we do it as a way of saying to our mom “Is it not true that we are still your babies?”

And when she wordlessly puts it all back to right again, it’s her way of saying “Yes, you jerks.  You will always be my babies.”

 

Victoria Story: Why elves are really the ones in charge of Christmas

Growing up I was told Santa was real. I was one of those kids who believed for just a little too long and only figured it out at school when some kid told me that my parents where actually Santa.

Growing up believing in Santa is a staple for many kids in Christian families, but there is always that one kid who goes around the playground and tells everyone that Santa doesn’t exist. As it turns out my husband was one of those kids. When I met him I was soon drawn into his families strange and quirky tradition: The Elves.

Linda, my mother-in-law, pulled me aside before my first Christmas with my now husband and simply said that Santa didn’t exist.

I asked her what she meant, as I was 18 years old and had known for a good while that Santa didn’t exist.

She soon said that when her children where growing up she told them that Santa didn’t exist and that he was just a figure that was made up to cover up the fact that the elves slaved away all day to make gifts for people.

In the 12 days before Christmas, the elves sent (and still send) each child in her family one gift each day.

These gifts where simple items that each child needed for example socks or soap. If you where ungrateful to the elves they would simply stop sending their gifts.

Why would they work so hard to make you gifts if you didn’t believe in or appreciate them?

The idea behind this tradition was to teach her children to be grateful for the hard work that goes in to each gift.

On Christmas, the children would open presents, but they weren’t from Santa they where from her.

Linda didn’t want her children growing up believing that some man with a beard broke into the house every year and left a bunch of gifts; instead she wanted them to believe that cunning and sly elves snuck in one gift a day that they had worked so hard on just for her children.

Today, all of Linda’s children are grown up but she still takes the time to send each of her children, grandchildren and children in-law gifts from the elves.

The elves of course drop off the gifts at her house each year because they don’t have time to travel to each house (they are really busy).

She and the elves are really close and she convinces them to send them early. Once they have arrived she sends them to us with instructions to open one each day.

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