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Seniors share holiday traditions

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Stockings, food, games, family, music and many other thoughts come to mind for most when they think about Christmas traditions.  Some families celebrate Christmas with presents and family time while others center their holiday traditions around church or community service. The city of Helena has a diverse community with families who celebrate Christmas holidays in a variety of ways.

Helena High School senior Aszah Preuc and her family look forward to Christmas morning when they can exchange stockings and see what they have tucked inside those special sacks.  This is a family tradition that started years ago with her grandmother.  Each family member has a unique stocking with his or her name on it and a special design.  Aszah’s stocking is blue and has her name on it.  It is designed around the “Let It Snow” theme.  

When it is time to open the stockings, they all gather their stockings and count to three and then pour out the contents of their stockings.  They all scream out what was in their stocking, so there is a lot of screaming going on all at the same time.  Aszah’s dad calls it “red and green carnival” because of all the screaming and laughing that is going on all at the same time as they search through their stockings.  The Christmas cards sent from relatives are also placed into their stockings.  

Madeline Akins says Christmas is the “best and craziest time of the year.”  Along with the normal celebrations, Madeline’s family gathers together prior to Christmas, and after they eat and exchange presents with those family members, they play a competitive game of Family Feud.  The teams consist of her immediate family and her grandmother against her uncle’s side of the family and her grandfather.  This is a very competitive game where her dad says one can see the true colors of the family members as they laugh and try to beat the other team.   After a rousing game of Family Feud, they also play dirty Santa.  

The Seven Days of Christmas is the highlight of the holidays for Ashlynn Mays and her family.  This tradition was started by her grandmother when she started giving all her grandchildren presents.  She gives all her grandchildren a present a day for the seven days prior to Christmas.  The rules that were established when the tradition started was that all gifts should be wrapped separately, only one gift opened each day, and that each gift was unique.  Grandchildren that can participate range in age from birth to 21 years of age.  Her grandmother started this tradition one time when she heard the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song, and she started thinking it might be fun.  She said twelve days might get expensive.  Ashlynn enjoys this time with her family and the tradition started from a song.

Giving back to the community is an opportunity that is available to all during the holidays.  Senior Trevor Smith and his family decided that this year they would start this tradition.  He said that as he and his sister have gotten older, the desire for presents and Santa isn’t as important.  They don’t put out milk and cookies anymore and only exchange a few presents.  His mother suggested they try to give back to those who are in need this Christmas.  They decided that on Christmas morning they will serve food to the homeless and poor.  They wanted to give back to the community and will work with Community Kitchens at Christmas this year.  It is the season of giving, and they felt like this would be a good opportunity to give something special for someone else.  

Suyi Ma said Christmas is extra special to her in a different way.  Her birthday is December 25, so she celebrates Christmas and her birthday on the same day.  She explained that in Chinese, Jesus is Ye su, so her grandmother took part of it and named her after Jesus.   Her family normally eats only two meals a day on holidays, so they normally eat Christmas lunch around 5:00.  Since she is Chinese, they usually have Chinese food for Christmas since they prefer eating Chinese food.  After dinner, they will watch a movie and eat popcorn.  She just enjoys getting to spend time with her family.

For senior Juan Granados, it is the most wonderful time of the year, but also a difficult time because his entire extended family lives in Colombia.  Although they are separated from their grandparents and other relatives, the Granados still celebrate the special tradition of Novena de Aguinaldos (a Christmas advent prayer).  This tradition consists of a song and prayer starting nine days before Christmas.  It is a time for them to recognize the birth of Christ and his influences on the world and his family.  “The Novena itself has always held a special place in my heart because it gave Christmas such a deeper meaning than that of simply getting presents under a tree every year,” said Juan.  

In Juan’s family, when they open presents, they would eat traditional food and sing villancicos (Colombian folk songs).  He feels that, like his grandmother, these songs and traditions are why he likes music so much.  His mother thinks that the Novena is a perfect time to appreciate and grow from these wonderful traditions honoring her heritage from Colombia.  

Christmas is celebrated in many different ways throughout the world.  Even in Helena, each family has its own ways of celebrating this holiday.  Enjoy your holiday with your family and share your traditions with others.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

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Seniors share holiday traditions