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Cat in the Stax: Holiday Traditions

By Ethan Shea

"elf on the shelf"

The holiday season is fast approaching, and I’m prepared to partake in some annual traditions or perhaps even make some new ones. Traditions may be religious, personal to your family, or just something goofy you do every year, but regardless of their origins, traditions make the holiday season worth looking forward to.

The Christmas Pickle"Christmas pickle"

One tradition that’s always exciting is the hunt for the Christmas pickle. Since most of my family celebrates Christmas, during our annual holiday party, we make a competition out of finding a hidden ornament resembling a pickle in the Christmas tree. The color of the pickle blends into the pine needles, so finding the faux finger food is never an easy task. Usually there are several rounds of find-the-pickle, and the winner of each round receives a small gift. I’ve read that this tradition has German origins, but there doesn’t seem to be any consensus on how the mythical Christmas pickle came to be.

Cutting Down the Christmas Tree

My family also makes a tradition out of cutting down our Christmas tree together, and we always make sure to bring our dogs. The pups never fail to be as loud as possible, but I wouldn’t have our annual arboreal expedition any other way. When we were younger, each of my siblings used to take turns cutting down the tree, but since we’re all either torpid teenagers or lazy twenty-somethings now, my step-dad is usually forced to play lumberjack.

Wrapping Paper Fights"Wrapping paper"

Each year during our family Christmas party, while presents are being opened, everyone takes part in what is essentially a massive snowball fight with wads of wrapping paper. When you least expect it, you may receive a crumpled lump of Scotch-tape-infused paper to the face, so you can never let your guard down during this part of the gathering. We always make sure to pepper any new attendees, usually significant others, with extra wrapping paper as a sort of initiation into the family. Things get wild when my younger cousins silently stockpile wrapping paper ammunition and unleash a synchronized frenzy of paper balls upon their older relatives. Needless to say, wrapping paper warfare isn’t for the faint of heart.

Elf on the Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf is my youngest sister’s favorite holiday tradition. Every year, usually in mid-November, Santa sends an elf to our house. This elf tirelessly watches my family and documents our conduct for Santa before he makes the final edits to the “Naughty or Nice List”. To be honest, I’m skeptical about this tradition. It feels wrong to condition my siblings to uncritically obey an omniscient authority figure…but hey, maybe that’s what Christmas is all about!

And don’t worry, I’m not the only one in the library with traditions. Here are a few more holiday customs overheard at Falvey!

Jenna Renaud, Graduate Assistant

“As we open presents on Christmas morning, we always make sure to have the oldest person open presents first, and we work our way down to the youngest. I’m not exactly sure where this tradition came from, but I think it’s just a way to keep the children from getting distracted by their new toys.”

Kallie Stahl, Communication & Marketing Specialist

“After attending church on Christmas Eve, my entire family meets at my grandpa’s house to play card games (yes, card games…I grew up in the Midwest). We have multiple tables setup with a different game at each table—Euchre, Pinochle, Rummy, Dominos, etc. Rotating tables (to ensure we get to chat with everyone), we all bring our favorite appetizers to share with our table.”

Shawn Proctor, Communication & Marketing Program Manager

“Every year we research the best Christmas lights in the area and drive out to visit some of the houses. It’s fun to see how creative some displays can be, including radio stations with music and synchronized lights.”

Joanne Quinn, Director of Communication & Marketing

“Each year we participate in Wreaths Across America because both my father-in-law and mother-in-law are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Capt. Jack Q. Quinn, USN was a fighter pilot and founding director of the Naval Staff College for international officers at the Naval War College, Newport, RI. Betty Quinn had what many consider the toughest job in the Navy – Navy wife.”


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Last Modified: December 8, 2021