Q&A: Holiday traditions

Christmas is many people’s favorite holiday. However, everyone celebrates a little differently during the holiday season. We interviewed various students and teachers to see what they do during the holiday season. 

Photo by Joshua Kim

What does your typical Christmas look like?

Senior Courtney Case: All of my family comes into town and we celebrate at my house. My family flies in and we just spend a lot of time together. We like to play board games and watch Christmas movies. Then we do dinner on Christmas Eve and then on Christmas Day my sister makes cinnamon rolls and we open gifts and just relax.

Student Council sponsor and art teacher Jennifer Russell: We visit everybody, my family and my husband’s family. We do what we call the Texas trifecta. We visit San Antonio, we visit Houston, then we do actual Christmas day in Dallas. At my parents house, Santa shows up on Christmas Eve to deliver the presents and read letters the kids have sent him. Everyone will then take the gifts to their own house and open them there. One of my uncles will dress up as Santa and he shows up at our house. Now my husband does it for my son at our own house.

Senior Jai Benegal: I personally don’t celebrate Christmas so for me the holiday season begins in November with Diwali. We do partake in some of the local christmas activities like the tree lighting, but nothing too fancy or over the top. Normally, we try to plan a vacation around this time because it is the end of the semester. But this year, due to COVID, we can’t do that.

Chemistry and Physics teacher Rachmad Tjachyadi: I usually start by dressing up beginning Dec. 1. That’s also when I start shopping for gifts for friends at work and at home. My family does not live here, so I basically get to celebrate the holidays with my students and my friends in this country. I live alone, so I don’t do a whole lot at home. For me, the holidays are a time to celebrate with my friends.

Photo provided by Jennifer Russell

Are there any special traditions you have?

Case: We go to the Ronald McDonald house every year and serve a meal there. We also decorate the tree with the entire family so we wait until everyone arrives. On Christmas Eve, we always get a surprise present, it’s always pajamas. Then we reenact the Nativity and we read the “Polar Express,” “Christmas Oranges” and “The Night Before Christmas.” 

Russell: There are events we have that lead up to Christmas. We have a cookie bake off. We do two cookies: a frosted sugar cookie and a cookie recipe. We do a letter writing campaign usually the week before so all of the kids can get their letters to Santa. Then Santa will come Christmas Eve. We also have a massive dinner on Christmas Eve where everybody dresses up. My husband’s family is Jewish so we celebrate Hanukkah as well. We do Chrismukkah, so we celebrate Christmas on Christmas and Hanukkah on Hanukkah. Typically, they overlap so each night we give each other a little gifts that are meant to be small and thoughtful.

Jai Benegal: Around New Year’s my cousins from Houston will come over and we’ll have a fancy dinner. That’s our main thing.

Tjachyadi: Usually I just get crazier and crazier when I dress up. I am actually collecting a lot of Christmas and Hanukkah sweaters right now. This year is kind of difficult because usually I would go to different holiday parties and then dress up festively, but this year basically that’s gone, which means most of my dressing up will be done at school. Because I’m by myself having up a bunch of Christmas decorations at home really doesn’t do anything. I do collect certain ornaments: I have a collection of Broadway ornaments and that’s basically my personal gift for myself.

Photo provided by Jai Benegal

What is your favorite part/thing of Christmas?

Case: I think everyone wanting to spread Christmas cheer. I like how it becomes normal to do service for others. I feel like everybody just wants to have peace and good will to men. Everybody is collectively coming together to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Russell: I like the togetherness of the holidays. December just becomes a big party month.

Benegal: My favorite part would be the social activities that take place in this time of year, like Christmas parties, New Year’s parties and the whole ambiance of the season is very comforting.

Tjachyadi: Usually December is not the happiest time of the year at school but the most stressful time of the year with finals coming up. Sometimes when I dress in outrageous outfits it gives me the ability to give some joy to a stressful time of year for the people around me.

Photo by Joshua Kim

What are some of your favorite memories during Christmas?

Case: I remember sometimes my sisters and I would sleep in the same room together on Christmas Eve when we were growing up. Sometimes we would wake up early at like 4 or 5 a.m. but our parents said we had to wait until 6:30 a.m. We would stay up and be super excited about opening presents in a couple hours. 

Russell: One year I got to be Santa and I actually got to dress up; I was pregnant and nobody knew and that was how I told my family. I was Santa and I gave my family a tiny picture of my baby. That was my favorite. My brother also got to be Santa one year, which was really cool because Santa has been coming to our house since we were little and now we can start being Santa.

Benegal: A few years ago we went on a cruise and being on the ship during this time was really enjoyable.

Tjachyadi: Spending time with friends and not going out anywhere and then just eat and hang out. I know it sounds pretty basic, but that’s one of my favorite things to do. One of the things I used to do before the pandemic was go see Christmas plays and stuff like that and that really is wonderful and I’m really missing that this year.


Is there anything you are looking forward to this Christmas?

Case: This will be the first Christmas we will be able to have all of my family members together in a while. My oldest sister is pregnant and we are excited for the baby also. 

Russell: I am going to miss everybody, but because we are always traveling for Christmas we never get to do Christmas with just the three of us, like my nuclear family. So it will be kind of cool to just have a chill Christmas. It will be nice to have a Christmas where I can make the choices. That’s what I’m looking forward to — a calm Christmas with just the three of us. 

Benegal: My cousins are coming over again this year so I am looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to being able to hang out with friends and be out of school. 

Tjachyadi: I’m looking forward to the break. I’m ready for next week to be over so I can relax and not do anything.