When you’re stuck in the snow (because you’re in Northern Arizona) or you’re suffering through sunny, 60-degree weather in the desert, the only way to make it through is celebrating those holidays.

It’s why Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hannakuhh and many other important holidays (like National Ugly Sweater Day) start their celebrations in December.

We asked our students what their favorite memories are during the holiday season, and this is what they told us.

Alexi S., Christmas Memory

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“Every December my family and I like to kick off the holiday season by, firstly, putting up our Christmas tree and decorations and, secondly, watching all of our favorite Christmas movies while drinking delicious hot chocolate. Personally, I love and try to get my family to play “Elf,” “The Polar Express” and “The Charlie Brown Christmas” movies each year, but I have to be fair  and let them play their favorites as well. Another tradition we have is going to see “The Nutcracker” play in downtown Phoenix each year. Every year since I was 10, I’ve been to see the Nutcracker and it helps to really make me cheerful and ready for Christmas. I hope to continue these traditions onto my family when I get older.”

Huddah A., Lake Mary tradition

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“What is my family tradition? Well,l I thought about this for a while. My family doesn’t exactly “do” Christmas, my grandmother is Italian and my grandfather is Palestinian, and Palestinians don’t really have Christmas. So I never grew up celebrating it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have traditions this time of year. Once it gets close to December usually me and my cousins and all of the families go up to flagstaff when the snow starts falling.

We always go to this one lake, Lake Mary. The way we learned to love this lake is quiet funny actually. We went up to Flagstaff basically on the spur of the moment and we got lost. So we looked up the closest lake and went there for a picnic and decided to go there once a year. It is such a beautiful lake and there usually aren’t that many people there which makes it even better. The picnic tables overlooks the lake and on the other side is the forest and it’s so peaceful, even with the 20 of us running around and eating.

Over the years I’ve really noticed how time flies, since the first year we went more kids have been born and all the kids have grown up. My cousin just turned 18. Our friend started college last year. The babies are now almost 10. It kind of scares me but also it’s nice because I believe once all of us grow up and have our own kids we will still come back every year and continue the tradition.”

Geneive W., winter traditions

“I come from a very large family; I have about 60 cousins total between both my mom’s and my dad’s side of the family.

My first winter tradition with my immediate family is always the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  On Friday, we take the decorations out from the attic to get ready.  Then, when Saturday comes, we start decorating.  My mom is inside doing some decorating, and my dad and my oldest brother are outside doing the lights around the house.  My other brother helps my mom and my dad, and I do the same.  The front door stays open all day with Christmas music playing inside and out.  Meanwhile, I am going back and forth, also doing some decorating in my room.  We do this all day, and by the evening we are very close to finishing.  When it is too dark to finish decorating outside, we decorate the Christmas tree after ordering a pizza.  Elf is playing during this!

I celebrate Christmas Eve with my mom’s side of the family.  There are 21 of us total; my cousins and my siblings.  We all go to our grandma’s house following the Christmas service at Mass.  Since there are so many of us, we are all assigned a cousin that we give a present to, and then we all get one from our grandparents.  Before opening any of our presents, we all hang out and our parents are getting dinner ready. Every year we have tamales, and the dessert changes every year depending on what the Swiss Colony magazine has to offer.  After the kids eat, the adults eat and the younger kids watch a movie while the older ones do their own thing with each other.  When this is over, we open our presents and then hang out for a while.  Eventually, we all go our separate ways and go home for Christmas!”

Kayla Torres, a Romanichal Christmas

“Each year on Christmas Eve, my family and I all meet up at one of each other’s houses and we have one big feast. I always see my cousin’s kitchen filled with food sometimes there wouldn’t even be room for anybody to sit because there is food on the tables just piled on. I am a Romanichal Gypsy and Romanichal’s are all about family and love so when it comes to presents, I get my family members something I know that they will love and that is useful to them. Sometimes we change up our traditions by adding some different things such as games or like craft things with the little kids. But by far our most favorite thing to do is we all stay up until 12 then that’s when we open our presents. Usually, the tree is barely visible because the presents are always piled high one time that we needed to put some presents in the second living room which turned out to be half filled we could barely walk. Once we are all done opening presents, we eat our traditionary cake that has Neapolitan layers, but not only do we just eat it we have an old fashioned Romanichal cake smashing. We try to avoid having caked smashed in our face though because we still try to look good for the gram.”

Other holiday stories…

“My all-time favorite Christmas memory is the first Christmas I spent with my dog. He’s the highlight of my days and my first Christmas with him will always be one to remember!” – Ayden Bennington

“My favorite Christmas memory was when my dog had her puppies right before christmas and we got to spend christmas with puppies. I actually have a favorite winter memory too. So, my brother has a kidney disorder and he was sick every year on his birthday in January, and last year, we went to see our cousins in Montana, he didn’t get sick that year and it was a great birthday for him!” – Paul Hoyt

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