TOVE I. S. GERHARDSE
Many people would say it is a terrible thing to lock up your children in a room for a whole night, the doors plastered with newspaper so they can not get out.
This is not the only method parents may use to protect the presents.
After talking to BYU students about their favorite Christmas memories and traditions, it’s obvious that there is certainly more than one set of traditions out there.
Some of the traditions are serious and self-sacrificing — others are hilarious.
The “breaking out of the newspaper” tradition has been practiced for years at Brooke Lawrence’s house, a sophomore from Fresno, Calif., majoring in human development.
“As we wake up Christmas day we line up like football players and take turns at who is going to be the first one to break through the newspaper,” Lawrence said.
The newspaper method is one way to keep the children from looking at the presents; food might be another.
At Stephanie Burdett’s house in Lehi, who is a course coordinator for Biology 100, there is a Swedish “smorebrod bord” that includes Swedish meatballs, julemenn, kippered herring and Goubber cheese.
“We also celebrated ‘St. Lucia’ when I was younger,” Burdett said. St. Lucia is celebrated on Dec. 13. The girls wear white dresses and candles on their heads in remembrance of St. Lucia.
Another Scandinavian Christmas tradition is to go to the cemetery on Christmas Eve with candles and flowers.
“In Finland we celebrate Christmas Eve, but before we eat and open the presents, my family always goes to the cemetery,” said Aino Kemppainen, a sophomore from Helsinki, Finland, majoring in international relations.
Lights are symbolic in the dark winter time of Christmas, and the tradition of lumenaires, originally from Mexico, is a tradition at Marilyn Johnson’s house. Johnson is from Lindon and works in the BYU Bookstore.
“Before we have a traditional dinner with candles and soft music on Christmas Eve, I put dirt in the bottom of sacks, put lights in them, and then put them up my walkway. It lights the way to the Christ,” Johnson said.
Another tradition during the dark month of December is quiet evening gatherings with the family.
“Every night during December my family gets together with the Christmas tree, lights and candles, Christmas bells and Christmas music. It is really quiet,” said Kristine Murrow, a sophomore from Virginia, majoring in pre-physical therapy.
Not everybody uses candles, but the stockings are a “must” in most homes. Yet even this tradition has variations.
“In my family we write small cards with something nice about someone in the family on them. Then we put them in that person’s stocking,” said Jeff Roberts, a sophomore from Durham, Ore.
Roberts’ family also has their own version of the traditional acting out of the Christmas story.
“We first have a role play, then we interview the persons. It helps us imagine what it was like, and the story comes alive,” Roberts said.
Rutheyi Thompson, a freshman from Anchorage, Alaska, majoring in chemical engineering, also has a Christmas tradition that helps her imagine and focus on what happened the eve before the Christ child was born — she bakes Jesus a birthday cake and sings happy birthday.
“I did it as a child, and now I do it with my children. It helps keep Christ in center,” she said.
Sometimes the environment you are in makes it easier to keep Christ as the center of the Christmas holiday. One such environment is a mission.
“Last Christmas I was on my mission in Houston, Texas. All my presents were stolen, but being able to help out families made me feel the true meaning of Christmas,” said Chris Whitney, a sophomore from Anchorage, Alaska, majoring in electrical engineering.
“I was out there to serve the Lord, and I was not caught up in shopping.”
Christmas spirit is about giving, Whitney said.
In Austria this has become the basis for a special tradition in the Schmidl family.
“In my family we just get books and small things for Christmas. We all donate money into a box and then we buy presents for people who are poorer than we are,” said Thira Schmidl, a senior from Schairten, Austria, majoring in journalism.
The celebration of Christmas may seem like a given, but in many places it is not. Until recently, it was illegal to celebrate Christmas in the former USSR.
“In Russia, New Year’s Eve is like Christmas here. The whole family gets together and we tell stories. You have to do your wishes before midnight and you hear the Champ, the big clock on Red Square,” said Ivan Tikhviskiy, a freshman from St. Petersburg, Russia, majoring in microbiology.
However, the Russian Orthodox church is celebrating Christmas on Jan. 7, according to the old calendar, Tikhviskiy said.
In some places it is not the political conditions that make it hard to celebrate Christmas. Rather, it’s the weather.
“In Honolulu, Christmas is not that big. Every now and then during Christmas we go to the beach. The warm weather will not tell me that the season is coming,” said Dennis Fujii, a sophomore from Honolulu, majoring in pre-physical therapy.
In Germany, as well as in Romania, there is a tradition to set your shoe outside the door to be filled with candy or presents.
“We do it on Dec. 5. We get candy from St. Nicholas if we have been nice,” said Kristine Murrow, who has lived in Germany.
In Romania they celebrate the same tradition on Dec. 15, and if you have been nice, St. Nicholas will give you some gifts, said Bogdan Banu, a sophomore from Bucharest, Romania, majoring in international relations.
“I also go and get my own Christmas tree when I visit my grandma in the mountains. We put a red ribbon on the one we want, and then we cut it,” said Banu.