Students, professors celebrate diverse holiday traditions

Fir trees, nutcrackers and reindeer all bring up specific images in Christmas traditions, but everyone celebrates the holidays in different ways.

While it is the general consensus that the holidays can sometimes be stressful, students and faculty of UNA are still more than ready for Christmas time. With such a diversity of people on campus, it is not surprising that being out of class seems to be one of the few things students and faculty will have in common over this break. Everyone has his or her own plans, traditions and stories to tell when it comes to the holidays.

For freshman interdisciplinary studies major Alyson Berry, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the best time of the year.

The day after Thanksgiving, Berry’s family sets up their Christmas tree, and to get further into the Christmas spirit, she and her two younger sisters receive little gifts from their parents every Advent (the four Sundays leading up to Christmas).

When asked what they like most about Christmas, students and faculty quickly broach the subject of food.

“Instead of making one Christmas dinner, my mom makes a ton of appetizers that morning, and we literally do nothing but sit around and eat all day,” said sophomore entertainment industry major Michael Carter.

Some students at UNA will be eating foods for altogether different celebrations this winter break. Freshman marine biology major Hailey Boeck celebrates Hanukkah as a Jewish cultural tradition. Boeck said that Hanukkah is the celebration of a historic miracle God performed by providing oil for light for eight nights when they had only enough for one. To symbolize this, it is Jewish tradition to light one candle each night of Hanukkah to symbolize the light that was maintained in the temple because of the oil. They also enjoy many fried foods, such as donuts and latkes, which are potato pancakes.

Assistant Professor of History Jeffrey Bibbee, who has been at UNA for four years, concurs with Carter and Boeck that it does not get any better than Christmas food, especially with the smells of sugar cookies and fudge that Bibbee’s mother makes every year.

Besides desserts, Bibbee’s family has its own unique tradition-buying ornaments from the different places they travel and adding them to the Christmas tree each year.

The ornaments tend to be interesting. In this year alone, Bibbee’s parents have visited Canada, his brother has been to Germany and South Africa, and Bibbee himself has brought home ornaments from Spain, Greece and England.

“Probably the biggest tradition is our Christmas tree,” he said. “We always have to compete over who has the greatest ornaments.” Bibbee believes his niece, who visited China and brought back a dragon ornament, will win this year.

To add to their uniqueness, apart from buying presents for the younger children, Bibbee’s family has ceased traditional gift giving, opting for making donations to charities instead.

“I get sick of all the presents,” Bibbee said. “I also get annoyed with Christmas music being played in October.”

Junior exercise science major Abril Agnew agrees that some Christmas traditions are less festive than obligatory. While some tend to get caught up in the stress of activities and preparations, she believes that spending time with family is the most important part of the holidays.

“People are seeing (Christmas) as a rushed thing and not taking the time to see it for what it really is,” Agnew said.

Her family’s traditions include giving each other gifts on the 12 days leading up to Christmas and then baking cookies for Santa Clause on Christmas night “because he exists.”

Bob Hendren, who has been a communications professor at UNA for 10 years, is among those at UNA who do not take the positive atmosphere of Christmas for granted.

Hendren related that part of the reason hemappreciates Christmas today is because of his time in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. He said that Christmas was a difficult experience, being cut off from his family in a foreign country-especially during a time with so little technology.

“It’s always a very lonely time for servicemen,” Hendren said.

UNA holds a host of foreign exchange students who will be spending Christmas break away from home. These students face the unique challenge of finding things to do through the holidays.

The winter break will be too short to enjoy visiting home, said Chinese study abroad student Jing Shi Zhang, or “Alvin,” who is here to get his master’s degree in business administration. As they did during Thanksgiving, he and his friends will be traveling within the States for the break.

“We are going to fly to New York to know more about American culture and to know how Americans celebrate Christmas,” said Chinese study abroad student Lei Xiao Lei, who is working toward his master’s degree in criminal justice.

According to Lei, while some Chinese young people like to celebrate Christmas, it is not a part of their culture.

“Almost all Chinese know Christmas, but they do not celebrate it-but they like the presents,” Lei said.