Centre students, faculty, and staff share their holiday memories and traditions—Part 2
RELEASED: Dec. 29, 2005
DANVILLE, KYLast year we asked faculty and staff to share their coolest holiday memories, and the response was terrific. This time around, we asked students to share their reminiscences as well, and we were overwhelmed by the number of replies—especially given that the email went out on the last Friday afternoon of finals week.
Here, in the second of a multipart series, are the collected holiday memories of the Centre College community.
Laura Behrendt '09, New Philadelphia, Ohio:
My family lives so far away from relatives and we are so busy during the holidays so we never get to see them. So the six immediate members of my family try to make the holidays special by having a special meal, inviting over neighbors or international students. We also like to play games or go see the big Christmas movie of the year. So by not having a huge family get-together my three brothers and my parents and myself have made a special bond and have become closer with every holiday.
Emily LaMaster '06, Prospect, Ky.:
On Christmas eve every year, after we get back from visiting with family, my mom reads my older brother, my younger sister, and me "The Polar Express" and "The Night Before Christmas." Even though all three of us are fully capable of reading those books on our own, it is a special tradition that we have.
Mykol Hamilton, H.W. Stodghill Jr. and Adele H. Professor of Psychology:
My sister and I had many foster sisters and brothers when she and I were in elementary school and junior high. For the most part they were teenage girls, because kids older than nine or 10 were hard to place. My parents wanted to take children who might otherwise not be placed in foster families.
At one point, though, when I was in fourth grade and my sister was in kindergarten, our family included children of many ages. We were my sister and I at ages eight and five, a 16 year-old young woman, a 13 year-old girl, an eight-year-old boy, and a five-year-old girl. The youngest three foster children were siblings.
I’ll never forget the big exciting Christmas we had that year. In the only home movie our family has, a few minutes of film taken by guests on Christmas day, 1959, it is apparent what a bustling, exciting time we had that Christmas. The six kids, two parents, and four guests are smiling and mugging for the camera. Our pomeranian is running circles around our feet. My sister Victoria is in a tug-of-war with Patsy, our five year-old foster sister, over the child-size teddy bear Victoria received from Santa Claus. Johnny and I are chasing each other around the Christmas tree. We all sit down to dinner around the dining room table, for once with every leaf attached, and are happy and thankful to be together.
Marilyn Osborn '07, Prospect, Ky.:
Every Christmas season for as long as I can remember, my mom, three sisters and I have all made individual gingerbread houses. My dad usually forgoes the whole house-making process and just hovers over us to eat our leftovers…ha ha. My house is typically the ugliest of the bunch as I'm the least artistic in the family...however, the others are much cuter and even cozy looking. I love this tradition because it's a time when we're all together and doing something that has always helped us get in the Christmas spirit.
Adam Owens '07, Pataskala, Ohio:
For me, the best part of Christmas has to be the tradition we have of going out every year to the same place and cutting down our tree. We have been doing this for probably 18 or so years, which is longer than I can remember! Every year it is exactly the same and that's just the way I like it. We have several other traditions like this, but this one really puts me in the Christmas mood.
Jill Embrey '06, Camp Hill, Penn.:
My mom is a pastor, so naturally most of our family's Christmas traditions center around church in some way. At the end of the 11 o'clock service on Christmas Eve, all the lights in our enormous, old stone church are turned off and the sanctuary is lit only by candlelight as we all sing "Silent Night." Each year, the sight is so beautiful that it sends chills down my spine. And despite whatever may be going on in my life, at that moment the world seems to be completely at peace. For me, that one single moment embodies the whole holiday.
Dean Brownley, head swimming and diving coach:
Growing up in New York we as a family always went to a Christmas tree farm on Thanksgiving weekend and tagged our tree. Then we came home and we all picked a name for what we called sleigh presents. It was a secret who you picked and there was a limit of $10 for a gift. When you bought the gift and wrapped it you put it in the ornamental sleigh. On the first snow of December we would go out and cut the tree that we previously tagged and bring it home to decorate and after we finished decorating the tree we exchanged sleigh presents even after giving them out not knowing who bought the presents. A lot of times the gift was a Christmas ornament. It was a great tradition. Keeping with the mystery of Santa not knowing who got the presents was a big part of the fun.
Deming Williams '08, Danville, Ky.:
Every Christmas eve my family decorates the Christmas tree in our living room. Afterwards, we turn on the Christmas tree lights and light candles in there and read "The Polar Express." Actually, we play a recording of it and my mom holds up the book and shows us the pictures. It's always magical for my brothers and me. At the end my mom rings the bell and we hear it year after year...we still believe. The fun part comes in the second reading though, when my brother Reid silently acts out the polar express along with the recording. It is so hilarious that we are rolling in the floor with laughter (well, I literally do; my family does laugh heartily though). Christmas with my family is full of laughs and tradition.
Katherine Everett '06, Bowling Green, Ky.:
My funniest holiday memory was when I was four and my family went to Key West with my grandfather and my aunt's family. We were staying in a house and everyone wanted a Christmas tree, but it's Key West so there aren't exactly too many of them around. So my dad and uncle went driving to find one and cut it down. While they were in the process of cutting down a pine tree, a Florida state patrolman pulled up and threatened to arrest them. He let them off and they decided that making a tree by sticking palm fronds into a pole with holes drilled into it was a MUCH better idea. We still joke about the Christmas Dad almost got arrested.
Cate Gutherie '07, Castalian Springs, Tenn.:
Every Christmas, my family and I would cut down a cedar tree. We would get all bundled up and hike around trying to find a tree that was just right for our living room. Every time I smell cedar, it reminds me of Christmas!
Emily Roach '07, Louisville:
Every year until I was about 15, my mom (Mums-EE) and I would go to a specific tree farm in Indiana to chop down our Christmas tree. Every year, we drove to the same Holiday Inn parking lot the other side of the river to meet up with the rest of the family—Uncle Bobby, Uncle Butch and Aunt Nancy, Uncle John Howard and Aunt Rosie, and occasionally my sister Lauren, Aunt Mahala, or cousins Chris, Robin, Rob, Susie, Kathy, and Michael. We'd hike all over the farm to find the perfect trees, and then chop them down ourselves with axes and hacksaws. I didn't realize until recently how lucky I am to have traditions like this to count on... times during the year when I knew the whole family would be together. When I was very young, my mom had to force me to get off the couch and go, but I am SO thankful now that she did, because those traditions are my favorite memories, and my family is incredibly close.
Lori L. Hartmann-Mahmud, assistant professor of international studies:
Christmas 1997 comes to mind as a memorable one. I was in Niger, West Africa working on dissertation research, away from my husband and one-year-old son for several months. They came to visit over the holiday break and it was wonderful. Their visit was enough of a gift but my husband also thoughtfully brought over a bag of yogurt-covered pretzels (my favorite treat, not available in Niger) and all of the Christmas cards sent to us in the U.S. He knew that I loved opening them and reading about the news of friends and family, so he brought the pile of cards—unopened—so I could relish that holiday tradition.
Ryan Reynolds '06, Sumter, S.C.:
Our Christmas tradition lies primarily in our decorating. Decorating the house for Christmas is a family affair. My dad and my younger brothers all help put up the outdoor Christmas decorations, while my mother and sister work to decorate the inside. We don't take decorating lightly however—our house is known around the city, and even around the state, as one of the best-decorated houses. Outside, we put up more than 50,000 lights, with plenty to spare in case something goes out. These lights not only line our houses, but the fences around our yard, yard decorations, bushes, trees, and other elaborate ornamental setups we have outside. There is always a steady stream of cars throughout our neighborhood every night up until New Year's Day. It really is amazing that people around town recognize your house by calling it the "North Pole House," the "Gingerbread House" (our house does look like a gingerbread house when decorated), or simply "the house with all of the lights."
On the inside, the decorations are equally as elaborate. We have three Christmas trees. One is a 20-foot tree that has colored lights and decorations from all four children that live with my mom that we have had since we were kids. This is where Santa comes to visit still (I have a sister and a brother who are eight and 11, in addition to my other siblings). The other two trees are ornamental. In addition, lighted garlands, nutcrackers, and other Christmas decorations cover the house. It really is a sight to see—I can send pictures if you want. It makes me feel like I am living at the North Pole when the warm weather of South Carolina keeps it around 60 degrees throughout December.
Tony Spalding '07, Louisville:
One tradition that we have is the tradition of buying new ornaments every year. I have ornaments that were from my first Christmas. But of course, not everyone has one. (I guess our more 'seasoned' family members, wish to only pick certain years. And I also have to hang it up. I think they almost didn't decorate the tree, because I wasn't home... but they did. So they just saved my ornaments for me to hang up.
Another thing we would do is not only hang our own lights up outside and decorate, but we would go load up in cars and visit other neighborhoods to see how other people decorate. Like a holiday decor tour, or something.
We also make gingerbread houses and bake and decorate cookies together.
One more thing, we would have a big Christmas feast at our house. I lived with my grandma, who we considered the head of the family. She and some of my other family members would be up all night, cooking, so the meal would be ready the next day.
Danielle Patterson '07, Louisville:
Every year, during the first weekend of December, my family and I travel to Huber Family Orchard & Winery to cut down a Christmas tree. All of my aunts, uncles and cousins come along and it's a great way for all of us to stay in touch and reminisce about years past. When I was younger, my cousins and I would always get lost amongst all of the Christmas trees, playing hide-and-go-seek. Now that we're all a bit older, we have fun sampling the apple cider and wine from the winery. Our family usually makes it into an all-day event followed by tree-decorating at my grandparents' house. Even though many of us have grown older and moved further away, it never fails that we all come together to keep the tradition alive within our family.
Maryanne Ward, professor of English:
Christmas stockings are very important in the Ward house. When our daughters were small, we would wait until they were asleep and tie their homemade stockings to the foot of their beds. They were allowed to open them when they got up. We could hear the younger, stocking in tow, scurry across the hall to open hers with her sister.
The stockings bought us some time Christmas morning. We lived in northern Ohio and the only heat in our living room (a converted garage) was a wood-burning stove. While the girls gleefully unpacked their stockings, John would go down and stoke the fire. Right after breakfast, we would open the doors to the living room. We would be greeted with the smell of pine and burning wood. The tree would be lit and the room illuminated with candles on what was usually a dark Christmas morning. The girls remember the opening of the doors as a magical moment.
Our daughters are both married, and we now tie the stockings to the back of our dining room chairs. Despite the change in ages and locations, they are the most anticipated part of Christmas morning.
Ashley Crace '07, Ashland, Ky.:
My favorite holiday memory occurred the last night before school was out for Christmas. My mom was a teacher in my brother's and my school district, so when school was cancelled due to snow, she almost always knew first. Well, one school night, it was snowing a whole lot, so we were sure we'd be out of school the next day. We made "snow cream" with the snow (like ice cream: snow, milk, sugar, and vanilla—so good). Then the three of us played clue and scrabble for hours. It was awesome. We kept waiting for that phone call to tell us that school was cancelled, but it never came and we stayed up all night. The next day, the snow melted and we all had to go to school (my mom to the elementary, me to the middle, and my brother to high school.) We were exhausted but that was the most fun we ever had on a non-snow day.
Eric Hack '07, Louisville:
Well, besides those of my youth when I would receive a copious amount of Ninja Turtles, my favorite Christmases have come in the last few years. Being away from home has really created a profound love and deep respect for my family. As I'm growing older, I am truly realizing—as they always told me—how truly short life is. Time indeed flies.
One revered and incredibly strange tradition on the Smith side of the family, my mother's side, involves setting up a chair, covered in tinsel, called the "hot seat," in which a family member sits and embarrassingly opens his/her gifts in front of everyone. To heighten the intensity of the event, my cousin records the whole incident on a ridiculously gigantic camcorder from 1992. The "hot seat" phenomenon makes it especially fun to give someone socks or underwear for Christmas, simply to embarrass the individual further.
It's always a good time.
Elizabeth Crouch '08, Louisville:
My favorite memory of Christmas has to be breakfast on Christmas morning. Even though everyone in my house is grown-up now, we still get very excited about opening presents. Mom fixes the sausage and waffles while we're all hovering and talking, still in our pajamas and bed hair. We eat, laugh and then head into the family room to sit around the tree and see what awaits!
Jackie Conley, financial aid analyst:
My mother started a Christmas tablecloth about 30 years ago. She would only use it on Christmas day and everyone that was there on that day would sign the tablecloth. Throughout the rest of the year we would embroider the names with many different colors of embroidery floss. My mother and father have passed on; but we still use the tablecloth when we celebrate Christmas together as a family. It is a great way to remember all of the wonderful Christmases we had together. We have fun looking at all the old signatures and get a good laugh at all the ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends that made it on the tablecloth throughout the years. It is a tradition we plan to continue for years to come.
Megean Kincaid '06, Louisville:
I love Christmas and the holiday season because it seems like everyone is just a little bit more cheerful and we go out of our way to make others feel special. It is often the only chance I get to see some of my more distant relatives. My favorite family Christmas tradition has been going on since my sister and I were very little. Every Christmas eve my sister and I get to open one package from my grandparents. We always get new pajamas and slippers that we can wear on Christmas morning. I think they probably just wanted to make sure we looked nice for all of those pictures they planned on taking the next morning. At any rate, it's a lovely tradition and I still look forward to it even now that I'm older.
Lea Carter Florence '08, Jonesborough, Tenn.:
When I was asked to write about what Christmas is to me, I couldn’t decide what to say. Should I talk about all the parties my family and I host, about four per December, or the special treats we have at every gathering, namely my dad’s homemade eggnog? Should I talk about all the Florence family traditions that are important to me, for instance the Mom’s cream cheese coffeecake for breakfast on Christmas morning?
Finally I realized that for me a big part of the Christmas season is family. Christmas is about my family gathering and celebrating the birth of Christ and remembering Christmas in its truest meaning. I wait with anticipation for that Christmas Eve service with its familiar carols and the lighting of the final Christ candle on the Advent wreath. Afterwards, when, hopefully, it is snowing, the family walks home from church singing Christmas carols. We always sing "Christmas Is Coming," which is an old folk round, and "O, Little Town of Bethlehem" using the English folk tune "Forest Green," the lesser-known hymn tune. Christmas is a joyous occasion, whose traditions for me are ever changing. But, one thing is for certain, my family will always be there to celebrate with me.
Stephanie Rowe '06, Louisville:
My dad and I put up our Christmas tree together every year. We start by having an eggnog toast of what we are thankful for or hope for in the new year. Then we hang all the ornaments. He tells me the stories behind the many hand-made ornaments in our collection. When we are finished, we turn down the lights and plug in the tree to bask in its beauty, or rather the fact that we have once again successfully fit our many, many ornaments on an average-sized tree. The evening is concluded with a viewing of "The Christmas Carol" (the George C. Scott version). On Christmas eve, then, we sit in front of the tree, and my dad recites "Twas the Night Before Christmas" (almost entirely from memory).
Philip R. Crain '08, Horse Cave, Ky.:
My favorite Christmas memory is the smell of our Christmas pine tree every time I pass it. That smell reminds me of my childhood and all the wonderful gifts and times I have had with my family.
Bek-A Hampu '06, Alliance, Ohio:
My dad is 100 percent Romanian, making my siblings and me 50 percent Romanian. There is also a large population of Romanians that have migrated to the city that I call home, Alliance, Ohio. Every Christmas since each one of us turned five, we have gone with my dad and other local Romanians to Christmas carol, in their native language, the Romanian community of Alliance. Although I could sing the lyrics to the songs, it wasn't until recently that I learned the meaning of the carols and really embraced this tradition. I didn't realize until this Christmas season, after seeing these people grow older and older, how much this tradition has meant to me and how much I as a person have been influenced by my father's culture. The Romanians who I have always caroled to and brought joy to at the holiday season will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope that this tradition may be continued even as one generation passes on and another one grows up.
- end -
Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
600 W. Walnut Street
Danville, KY 40422
Public Information Coordinator: Telephone 859-238-5714
Back to News and Events Home Page