As the year comes to a close, we find ourselves thinking of the days ahead and also into seasons past as well. Inspired by the holidays, this month’s Employee Spotlight was created to celebrate our employees as a whole at this ‘most wonderful time of the year.’
Below our team shares some of their favorite memories and traditions from holidays past.
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When I was about 7 or 8 years old, there was an unusually warm December (around 50-60 degrees) in Gasport, NY, where I lived. We went to the Christmas Eve service at St Mary’s Catholic Church, and I was worried the whole time that Santa was not going to come because there was no snow for his sleigh. About an hour later, there was a snowstorm that left a foot of new snow on the ground. Sure enough, Santa delivered as planned. -Eric C.
Every Christmas Eve, my mother’s family would all get together at my cousin’s house. All the children would patiently wait for Santa to come bouncing through the backyard in the glistening snow with a huge white sack over his shoulder, listening for his deep voice in the distance…”ho ho ho…Merry Christmas,” as it got closer. Once Santa arrived, he would spend time with each child starting with the youngest first, giving us all a present and candy cane. I’ve always loved the pleasing aroma of oak wood that burns in the fireplace as the children dance around joyfully to Christmas music, eating homemade Christmas cookies and waiting for Santa’s arrival. The memory of the adults happily conversing in the kitchen, enjoying cocktails and eggnog, and everyone taking in the various scents of an Italian meal being cooked gives me a nostalgic feeling my senses will never forget. -Melissa G.
The first Christmas I remember, after all the presents were opened, we went outside to play with our bikes (or whatever toys we had received) and found ‘Jingle Bells’ scattered on the front lawn that had fallen off Santa’s sleigh and/or his Reindeer. Every year thereafter, we would inevitably find a few ‘Jingle Bells’ on Christmas morning that had fallen onto the ground when Santa’s sleigh landed. It is a tradition that has continued and now on Christmas morning, instead of rushing to open presents on Christmas morning, my little girls make their way out to the front lawn and collect ‘Santa’s Jingle Bells’ first. -Christine J.
Some of my best memories of Christmas were at my Grandparents’ house. Family near and far would come to celebrate the feast that my Grandparents would start preparing days in advance. The best part was opening gifts. My Grandfather was quite the jokester and would insist on wearing every single gift bought for him as it was opened. Many times he would have multiple layers of shirts covered by sweaters, bathrobes, hats, scarves, and mittens. We would laugh and laugh every year at his antics. He made every Christmas special and joyous, especially for the kids. -Lisa F.
My favorite memory is being with my family on Christmas eve playing junior Pictionary, the boys cheating (always boys vs. girls) and ending the night with our favorite Christmas movie, “The Santa Clause” with Tim Allen. -Sara C.
My parents always wanted to give my brother and me a Christmas experience that would be magical for us as young kids. Every year on Christmas Eve, we had the tradition of making “reindeer food” that consisted of glitter and “reindeer pebbles.” Once I grew older, I eventually realized that the “reindeer pebbles” consisted of a mixture of dry dog food and cat food. We would all go out front as it fell dark to sing and wiggle around as we threw glitter mixed with our pets food all over the driveway (it is my guess that the ducks in our neighborhood harassed us for days after this for this exact reason). After all the action of preparing for the reindeer, we would get ready for bed. Part of this ritual involved my parents helping us put out Oreos and milk “for Santa.” In the middle of the night, my brother and I would hear a big belch let loose in the living room and we would rush out to find our presents under the tree, my dad sleeping on the couch, and all of the cookies gone. It was not until I was older that I realized my dad was not on the couch to “keep watch” but actually to eat all the cookies without waking us and would let out a big belch as he laid back down pretending to sleep. It was his way of helping our imagination run wild, while also giving us a reason to leave the room. It was the effort that made the difference growing up– my parents never stopped making an effort. Now that my brother and I are older, the traditions have changed, but they are still just as special. -Payton G.
For the last 5 years, my husband and I have hosted an annual candy cane hunt for our four nephews and two nieces. This has been so fun that it has expanded from just hunting for candy canes to a full-blown Christmas scavenger hunt that includes the entire family as they have gotten older. The excitement and cheer on their faces is the most touching way for us to celebrate the holiday season and kicks off the Christmas spirit for our families. -Sierra O.
When I was 10 years old, my parents decided to take my sister and me to Disney World for Christmas – and not just Christmas time, but actually on Christmas day! Living in Florida, Decembers are not very cold – so when we got to our hotel on Christmas Eve, we were able to go swimming in the enormous pool while being able to enjoy all of the Christmas decorations and lights surrounding us. At the age of 10, my belief in Santa Claus had faded. But my sister, who was 7, still believed with all her heart. We saw a shooting star that night from our hotel room, which my parents said was Santa and his sleigh – the smile on my sister’s face was brighter than any Christmas light around. On Christmas Day, as we walked into the park, the Disney/Macy’s Christmas parade was just ending and we were able to see Santa in his sleigh complete with all of his reindeer. The street was filled with joy, excitement, and laughter and the smell of cookies and ice cream surrounded us. Despite the park being overly crowded that day, my parents never let on how stressful it was– all that mattered to them was that their daughters had the most amazing and memorable Christmas — which we did. It is a day I will never forget and a memory that I am lucky to have. -Erica B.
One of my favorite holiday traditions is making an Italian dessert called Struffoli with my mom and my older sister. Struffoli are little balls of fried dough coated in honey and topped with sprinkles and candied fruit. When I was little, my sister and I would help my mom roll out the dough into long rods and cut it to size so my mom could fry it. After it was fried, she would cover it with honey and my sister and I would sprinkle them with sprinkles. Once they were finished, we would give little plates of them to friends and family for Christmas. My mom would always tell me and my sister not to eat it once it was plated, but we could never resist the temptation. We would sneakily eat bits of the Struffoli, but always ended up getting caught and scolded by our mom in Italian (this still happens, even though we are adults now). -Angela P.
Around this time of year, my family loves to hear the story of “The Tinsel Mystery”: when I was very young, one year my mom decided to use tinsel to decorate our Christmas tree for the first time. Shortly after, she kept finding pieces of tinsel around the house and scolded my three siblings and me for playing with it and taking it off the tree (especially the lower branches) which of course we all denied doing. With me being the youngest, and therefore the shortest, I was especially warned to LEAVE THE TINSEL ALONE! But the tinsel continued slowly disappearing, and my mom was getting pretty frustrated with us because she could never catch anyone doing it. Then one night, my parents woke up to strange sounds coming from the living room. They rushed to get up to see what was going on. That is when they saw our beloved beagle, Sam, looking guilty, and then saw that Sam had left an early, somewhat shiny, Christmas present for us under the tree. Mystery solved! Needless to say, we never put tinsel on the Christmas tree again. -Marilyn S.
One of my fond memories of waking up Christmas morning was when my dad would get up before any us of children. I am the oldest of three, and he would bellow through the house in a very deep voice “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas,” making it sound like Santa was in the house. It would wake us all up and we would run down to the Christmas tree to see what Santa brought us. After I grew up and moved from Ohio to Florida, my dad would still call every Christmas morning early and wake me up with the bellowing of “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!” After I had each one of my four children over the years, my dad continued to call on Christmas morning to act like Santa and bellow “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!” My children loved it. After each one of my children became old enough to realize that it was their Papa calling every Christmas morning, they would tell their younger siblings that Santa was still calling them. My two adult children and my two teenagers still expect the call to this day from their Papa. This tradition now also includes my two grandchildren, my dad’s great-grandchildren. The great-grandchildren just giggle with delight when Papa, now via FaceTime, says “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas!” It starts off Christmas morning for all of us.