Winter break traditions

Examining the traditions students and staff partake in over the winter holidays

Anika Bhandarkar and Megha Mummaneni

Every year, two days before Christmas, sophomore Gehna Saini and her family hang up a golden reindeer ornament on their Christmas tree. The ornament, originally a present to her from her mother, consists of a reindeer head with a chained, string border around the bottom. After her mom told her the ornament brings good luck, it became Saini’s lucky charm.

I think [that] the winter season is usually the time when I’m the most depressed because it’s just winter,” Saini said. “Putting [up] that golden reindeer makes me happy and it also brings good luck because final [grades] are coming.”

Saini’s family originally started the tradition when she was 5 years old. Since then, the role of hanging up the reindeer has been passed on from her mom, to Saini and finally to her younger sister. 

English teacher Jireh Tanabe’s family has passed down a different tradition — they have gone to Lake Tahoe to ski every winter break since her kids were born. Tanabe says learning to ski is a skill that has been passed down from her father-in-law to her husband and his siblings and then to her kids.

Senior Brooke Frei also goes to Lake Tahoe over winter break, where she and her family celebrate Christmas by exchanging presents, having a festive dinner and enjoying nutmeg desserts and holiday cookies afterward. Frei treasures spending Christmases in Lake Tahoe because of how different they are from experiences at home. 

“I like the white Christmas feeling of it,” Frei said. “In the Bay, you don’t get any snow — it feels like spring all year round. It’s really nice having a traditional, cutesy winter during [the] Christmas season.”

Tanabe adds that another family holiday tradition of hers is stuffing stockings with presents the night of Christmas Eve after her kids go to bed. She mentions that “for the kids, this is about the magic of the season.”

“I think it’s neat to see how kids react to Santa Claus,” Tanabe said. “Having a mythical figure come, leave you gifts of your choice and then exit [your home] — there’s something magical about the anticipation, the expectation and the surprise because you’re not sure if it’ll actually happen, but every year it does. Of course, the kids are figuring out that Santa doesn’t actually exist, so the magic’s gonna be gone, but it’s having that in their childhood, I think, that’s magical.”

Overall, Tanabe stresses the importance of building relationships with relatives, adding that the holidays are a perfect time to do so.

“We go to my mother-in-law’s house for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner so they can see all their cousins and so they can spend time with their family,” Tanabe said. “I think that part is invaluable as [the kids] grow up because it’s the relationships that we have with people that keep us a family.”