Jingle bells, tinsel and holly light up the Concordia campus, but it’s what Cobbers are doing behind the scenes that set their holiday traditions apart. Whether it’s reading Wuthering Heights every Christmas or watching Lethal Weapon until Santa comes to town, Concordia’s students are celebrating the holidays in their own style while still strengthening family ties.
Krista Gilman, junior, is in the sixth year of her Christmas tradition. Gilman and her friends celebrate the holidays by prepping with Chinese food feasts on the 25h of every month until Christmas.
“It started in high school with a few of my brother’s friends,” Gilman said. “They graduated a year earlier than him and went to the University of Minnesota, so in order to ensure that we all stayed in touch, we decided that getting together once a month would be best.”
Gilman and her friends chose to eat Chinese food for these occasions because a local restaurant, Village Wok, served “cheap, but really good Chinese food.”
“Discussions came about, and it [was] decided that Chinese would always have to be eaten on the 25th, even if it couldn’t be at Village Wok,” Gilman said. “Even if we’re not together, it’s a good excuse to text people ‘happy four months until Christmas…you getting Chinese food? What are you up to?’ It helps people stay in touch, which was kind of the original goal.”
Gilman isn’t the only one to commemorate Christmas with untraditional foods. Tyler Looysen, senior, has the same dinner every Christmas Eve: sloppy joes, lefse, homemade French fries, and a Banana Candle.
“The weirdest part are the ‘candles’ which everyone gets,” Looysen said. “Usually you put them on a little plate, then there’s a bed of lettuce [and] a pineapple. You cut a banana in half and stick it in the middle of the pineapple then put whip cream and half a cherry on top.”
Looysen’s relatives claim the whipped cream used to be mayonnaise, but that it was changed because the generations of children dubbed the mayonnaise “gross.”
“It goes way back,” Looysen said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re together or not. Everyone who is a member of our family does it every Christmas Eve. Even when we’re not together, I know when I call my cousins on Christmas Eve that they’re doing the same thing. It’s kind of a way for us to be together without really being together.”
Emily Nelson, junior, and her family celebrate their festivities with another unconventional dinner (Hawaiian pizza) and a movie. This ritual is done in lieu of some of the more typical Christmas Eve traditions.
“My parents, brother and I would go see the movie on Christmas eve instead of going to church,” Nelson said. “Once in a while we would try to make it to the late service, but sometimes it didn’t happen.”
Nelson and her family don’t just go to any movie on Christmas Eve though. They look for one particular series title to light up the big screen for their family event.
“We tend to do movies on Christmas eve, but it was specifically going to the theatres to see the [Fockers], otherwise we tried to watch movies at home,” Nelson said.
Other conventions of the traditional Christmas, such as receiving a present, have taken a new turn. Casey Gardner, senior, and his family observe Christmas Eve by giving each other “the weirdest gifts” they possibly can.
“My cousins and I will sometimes wrap up the grossest pair of underwear that we have throughout the year,” Gardner said. “We’ve been doing this ever since I can remember. I feel closer to my family because… we make fun of each other a lot and tease each other, but we know that it’s all in good fun and we can get away with a lot and not hurt each other’s feelings.”
Whether it’s presents, food or events, students have found new ways to define the word Christmas. Though these festivities may be unconventional, Cobbers are keeping family and friends close during the holiday season with their new traditions.