[canes]Ashley Symons, Editor-in-Chief and Paranoid Holiday Sleeper
My dad used to tell me that Santa’s elves were watching me. “Look, there they are,” he would say, pointing to shadows that I later realized were created by our living room curtains in the evening hours. “They’re going to help Santa decide if you’re on the Good or Bad list this year.” And I believed him – since Dads seem to know everything – and did my best not to do anything that might displease the man in the red suit, the man who really did know everything.
I always loved the lead up to Christmas: the quick glances at the mysterious elves in hope of catching one’s eye; the hectic mall shopping; the investigation of presents already under the tree; the making of cookies with frosting; and the singing of carols, usually off-key.
The buildup grew and grew, culminating on Christmas Eve, when I could finally open my first present. (Always pajamas, to be worn that night, ready for the holiday smiles in the countless, sleepy-eyed photos to be taken the next morning.) Ever since I can remember, I have had trouble sleeping the night before Christmas. The sounds of the house, of creeping and whispering, and gifts being wrapped, along with the anticipation of the next morning, have always left me tossing and turning in bed. “Just go to sleep. Santa’s coming,” I would tell myself, as I listened and was pretty certain I heard some bells jingling in the distance. Even now as an adult, I still have trouble sleeping on this night. Which, I suppose, is what Christmas is all about.
And so again this year, I’ll look in the shadows and wonder if the elves might still be there. I’ll try to figure out what is in the box with my name on it, estimating by its weight and dimensions that they are probably pajamas, to be worn while I desperately try to fall asleep on yet another Christmas Eve.

Molly Benningfield, Managing Editor and Future Holiday Craft Show Volunteer
The other night, when I was on the phone with my mom, I had this sudden holiday decorating urge. It burst out of me with energy I haven’t seen on a Monday night in a long time. I went to my craft shelf in my closet (cool, right?) and took out green construction paper to make paper chains. As I was telling my mom about a coworker who drove me nuts, my fingers flew in rapid succession of cutting paper, hooking chains together, stapling. I was a machine. Henry Ford would’ve been proud.
Of course, Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year, and much of it is because I get to decorate all over. Don’t get me wrong – I love pretty much everything about the holiday season. I have six different versions of “Carol of the Bells” on my iTunes, I’m trying to eat as much holiday food at various holiday parties as I can, and I love the general happiness of people around this time. It reminds me of being at Disney World, but much colder.
[fireplace]But, to me, the ultimate form of fun during the holidays is making everything look pretty. I can’t help it – I used to be convinced I was going to be an interior designer and be asked to guest host on The Christopher Lowell Show. Besides the kindergarten-style paper chains (I have, however, graduated to big-people scissors, thank you), our house has a tree, wreath, many lights, presents, holiday signs, and most importantly – a fake fireplace. We made it last year because we wanted to pretend we were celebrating the holiday by fireside, and had stockings to hang somewhere. So, by using paper grocery bags and construction paper from my shelf, we created a fireplace over our couch.
But one of the constants of every holiday season for me is my raggedy, straggley, ratty, tatty Christmas tree. I’ve had it since I was about three, and its wire limbs have definitely seen better years (like 1988). But it’s mine – I had it when I shared a room with my brother; then with my sister; then when I came to MSU, I stationed it in between two lofted beds; and finally, when I moved into my house, it flanked the TV with another small, fake tree. It’s had colored lights, white lights, real ornaments, homemade paper ornaments, weird raffia string, jeweled garland, a star on top, an angel on top, and always has garnered a lot of attention by many friends, mainly due to its appearance.
The thing about holiday decorating is that it’s one part of a much bigger picture of getting me in the mood. In the future, my style might mature a bit and I might actually start looking and acting like a grown-up, complete with real decorations. For now, my homemade trimmings are just fine. But I’ll have to look over my shoulder every once in a while, because that crazy old tree might still be following me for a while.

Jessica Sipperley, State Side Editor and Wary Consumer
[ornament]This year, I took a stroll down a previously untrodden path: I went shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. I define “shopping” loosely: I went to the local Circuit City down the street to pick up one DVD. That was all I wanted, and I refused to shop for anything else. I awoke at 8 a.m. on a Friday morning – an ungodly hour, and even more so during vacation – and I scraped layers of ice from my windshield. I settled for a parking spot in the deepest recesses of the lot. Struggling past haggard mothers with armfuls of electronics, I finally reached the DVDs, thrown haphazardly into cardboard bins. Frustrated customers jabbed at advertisements and shouted at frazzled sales associates; the checkout line wound through the entire store. Small children chased after each other around my ankles, riding an early morning sugar high, and I was about to faint. I spotted the final copy of the DVD – Grey’s Anatomy – and I lunged at it: I would not leave the store empty-handed. After an hour wait for a $10 movie (and a chuckle from the cashier because I waited for an hour to buy a $10 movie), I finally understood why the day is referred to as “Black Friday:” spoken of with equal horror by little old ladies and seasoned shoppers.
Despite this scarring experience, the spirit of the holiday has not been ruined for me. I’m young, I’m resilient: I’ll recover with little to no evidence of mental problems. Christmas is something I will always anticipate with a childlike wonder. When will the first snow fall? What kind of wrapping paper will my mother buy? Will my grandma spike the egg nog? Every year has the presents, the gaudy lights, the embarrassing holiday home movies, but I look forward to it all the same. When else can cutthroat shoppers morph into calm guests at a party, with their faces basked in candlelight as they laugh quietly with family and friends? I tell ya, there’s no time like the holidays.

Cara Binder, Arts & Culture Editor and Big Brother Target
The most memorable opening of a present I have is when I was about six or seven years old. This was at the peak of Christmas heaven, when you wake up at 5 a.m. and lay in bed just shaking until you are allowed to wake up the rest of your family at the agreed upon time of 6 a.m. At this age, it is as if you are in an altered state of mind when you hit the Christmas tree ready to ravage through the piles. You aren’t quite thinking clearly and are too anxious to see all that Santa has brought to really think anyone would try to trick you on such a magnificent morning. But then again, I have a brother who is four years older than me and has always taken every opportunity to play the quintessential big brother role.
[soap] I went to open a small package and found in it a small, white, shrink-wrapped bunny. I had no idea what it was, and therefore just kind of held it up and whispered to John to tell me what I was holding. He cheerfully told me it was white chocolate, and I promptly tore into it and took a massive bite out of it. I actually chewed it for a few seconds before realizing that it was soap. John was well aware of this fact, and found it amusing that I sat through the rest of Christmas morning with a mouth that tasted like I had just sworn in the 1950s.
Now that we are 21 and 25, the dynamic of our Christmas mornings hasn’t changed all that much. I still wake up early and open my presents much more quickly than John, and if he ever has the chance to squeeze in a good prank, he’ll take full advantage. I guess we’re considered adults now, but on Christmas morning, I bet I’d still fall for the “Oh cool, that’s white chocolate,” line.

Jessica Yettaw, Photo Editor and Ritualistic Homebody
As the weeks wind down to the end of the semester, I’ve found myself becoming increasingly excited. Not only is this the end of a long semester and the start of a much welcomed three weeks of relief, but it’s also nearing Christmas, my favorite holiday. There are so many things I love about Christmas. Many of these things have turned into quirky traditions that continue from year to year.
[tree]The oldest tradition I can remember is going to pick out a Christmas tree with my dad. Every year we get dressed up in our long underwear, boots, and heavy winter coats (I live in Northern Michigan which means there’s usually like 100 feet of snow and it’s 40 below zero) and go tromping through the snow in the woods by our house to search among the vast quantities of evergreens until we find the perfect one. We then cut it and bring it home only to have my mom say (every year, without fail) “It’s so tall. How are you ever going to get it to fit in the house?” And every year, we make it fit.
Another holiday tradition for me centers around holiday music. I have my favorite tunes special to the season and sometime shortly after Thanksgiving, they make their way to my CD player and yes, even to my parent’s cassette player as my favorite Christmas mix is a collection by Burl Ives I’ve treasured since I was four. And Christmas wouldn’t be the same without “Feliz Navidad,” John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas,” Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime” (can you tell I’m a Beatles fan?) or Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
My dad is a mail carrier for the post office, so another thing I look forward to every year is the numerous amounts of homemade cookies, candies, and other sweets he receives as Christmas gifts from his customers. The closer it gets to Christmas, the more goodies he brings home, so it’s pretty much like a new treat every day. I particularly get excited about the delicious peanut butter balls he gets every year from one customer. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he retires next year. Maybe I should start asking for the recipe.
Sadly, one of my most recent holiday traditions will not be carried out this Christmas. This will be the first Christmas in four years that I will not be able to celebrate with my fiancé, Cory. He is currently serving in the U.S. Army in Baghdad, Iraq, and will be there for the holidays. Every Christmas we have been together has been filled with memories of stringing lights outside his house, going to pick out a Christmas tree with his mom and little sister, and just throwing snowballs at each other while goofing around in the snow. It will be really different without having him here and I have a feeling I’ll be playing “All I Want for Christmas is You” a little more than usual this year.
At least Cory will be home for Christmas next year, so I can resume my tradition. Until then, I’ll have fun watching It’s a Wonderful Life while drinking a big glass of eggnog after jamming to my favorite Christmas songs and admiring our perfectly picked tree and snacking on peanut butter balls.

Kim Bale, Global View Editor and Family Woman
[fam]Christmas is a season. It starts on Thanksgiving evening, after the turkey has been eaten and the leftovers portioned up for everyone to take home; after the pumpkin pie has disappeared and the kitchen returned to its spotless order. It starts with Nat King Cole’s smooth voice singing of jack frost and chestnuts roasting; with the adults settling down to play a game of euchre and the kids running off to play hide-and-go-seek. Christmas begins and ends with family.
My memories of Christmas include wrestling on the floor with an uncle who thinks he’s just a big kid, or standing around a table filled with vegetables, cheeses, pickles and various dips, ruining our appetites for the main course. No matter what the activity, there was always more than one person doing it. A large family makes for loud conversation, too many little hands in the desserts, and a huge mess to clean up once the meal is through.
A large family also makes for more voices during Christmas caroling, more presents under the tree, and not a lonely, empty room in the house. There is always an uncle to beat in ping pong or an aunt to help with the mashed potatoes. There is always an older cousin to look up to and sit next to at the dinner table, or a younger cousin to play a board game with and remember what it was like to be their age.
A time removed from “real life,” Christmas is an exit from the hectic, responsibility-filled world of final exams and work schedules, and an entrance into the 1950s, when family was all that mattered. Everyone is way too happy and the house is way too clean. There is always too much food, yet never enough to eat. And when Christmas day is done and everyone reluctantly kisses goodbye, thoughts of next year’s Christmas make the coming 365 days livable.
It’s December first, which means there are only 24 days until Christmas; 24 days until family.

Caitlin Dobson, Managing Editor and Peruvian Pyro Maniac
With the risk of sounding like I’ve had a horrible track record of holidays throughout my childhood, I’d have to say my most memorable Christmas was spent without my family.
Not to say I didn’t enjoy the fact that I grew up getting to wake up every other Christmas to rip through presents alongside my older brother, give thanks to a mother who knew how to give gifts like it was going out of style (you wouldn’t believe the homemade bows this woman makes), a father who stomached all of the cookies and milk we left for “Santa” on Christmas Eve, and the rest of my family members who – no matter how crazy the holidays got – always spent them together.
[theworks]However, three years ago was when I celebrated the holidays Peruvian-style. For close to a month, I had the opportunity to stay with a family of 5 – turned into a family of 7 including myself and a fellow study-abroader – and experience a new sort of holiday, equipped with a nativity set, fireworks, wrapping presents with three new siblings and a dog I’ve never had while singing along to Peruvian Christmas music and all.
In Peru, most families celebrate on Christmas Eve. We ate a wonderful dinner, experienced evening mass at my family’s church, walked around the neighborhood to spend time with all of the neighbors and then visited an area of Cusco where an enormous Christmas tree made of empty Mountain Dew bottles and lights stood (naturally).
The Eve seemed more like New Year’s with everyone counting down to midnight when cheering and screaming and fireworks ensued. And no waiting until Christmas morning for my little host sisters and brother to open presents. After the stroke of midnight and bursts of fireworks exploding on the front lawn, wrapping paper began flying in the air as if the presents had a wick of their own.
Christmas day was spent traveling to a place where we actually went swimming and ended up driving through a huge street parade. It felt more like a weekend camping trip than Christmas Day, but an eventful two days to say the least.
With the actual New Year’s Eve spent running around the Plaza de Armas in the center of Cusco with thousands of people running and circling the main area and fireworks once again reigning over the sky, I can’t say that any holiday has stuck in my mind as much since.
So here’s to new experiences and a new year, good tidings and good cheer, and all that good stuff. And no matter where you might find yourself this year…


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