Holiday Traditions at OFHS

Nicholas Sweis, Sports Editor

As Christmas is around the corner, I went around the school to ask our students and staff what their holiday traditions were. I got a lot of responses.


Maxwell Corral: Me and my family make a lot of tamales a few days before Christmas. We then distribute them and we will have a few dozen.

Kiera Clancy: My family and I have a cookie baking and decorating tradition.

Jackson Castaneda: A wintertime tradition of mine and my family’s is watching the movie It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. It’s my mom’s favorite Christmas movie and it’s also one of my favorites.

Alexander Duduich: For as long as I can remember, my family and I would have a special Christmas. Every year’s November holiday, we go get our Christmas tree. We keep it outside until we are ready for it. Then we put up the lights first, and afterwards we put up our ornaments. Every Christmas Eve, we go over to my Nanna’s and Pa’s house to spend time with them. We eat Christmas dinner, ham, mashed potatoes, corn and soup. Then we open presents in our stockings and under the tree. On Christmas morning we open our own gifts under our tree. Then we eat Christmas breakfast. During New Year’s, we go to the movies. First time, we saw Rise of Skywalker and then Sing 2.

Julia Fierro: My family normally celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, specifically from afternoon till midnight. We usually eat pozole and tres leche cake along with traditional Christmas foods. My least favorite is a flan dish with an eggnog sauce.

Olivia Holubecki: My family enjoys decorating the tree together and having a certain casserole Christmas morning. We also like to have a very relaxing Christmas morning and spend it eating and watching movies together. In addition, my grandma comes over on Christmas morning to celebrate.

Sarah Jensen: Every year around Christmas time, I like to make homemade dog treats for my friends’ and families’ dogs. This started around 5 or 6 years ago and it’s something I look forward to doing every year. The night I spend doing this is one of my favorite nights of the Christmas season and I love giving them to people and making them and their dogs happy.

Aaron Murawski: I always look forward to the time of the year when the Christmas decorations start to come out and strands of lights span the neighborhood. Every winter our family always puts up the Christmas tree on the weekend of Thanksgiving and we jam out to our favorite holiday music. As it gets closer to the holiday we go to our favorite Christmas concert that annually performs the second weekend of December. From there I count the days down till finals begin and winter break follows thereafter. Happy Holidays!

DeShawn Nolan: Some of my Christmas traditions consist of going skiing with my younger sister, visiting various Christmas light locations, and on Christmas day, me and my family always watch Home Alone and Christmas Vacation together.

Ashley Nordstrom: Typically on Christmas, instead of having a Christmas dinner, we have Christmas brunch. This typically includes things like french toast, eggs, bacon, etc. After that it’s relatively chill. We wait until near the end to open gifts in one big circle. Kids go first. Adults go last. It’s a time to be close with the people you love and have fun.

Nathan Powers: Usually, my family hosts a Christmas party. Almost everyone from my mom’s side of the family goes and the house is full with 30 to 40 people. There is always a lot of food and I have to help my mom and aunts make tamales the night before.

Francesca Staszak: Every Christmas, I see my aunt and cousins on my dad’s side. They live in Wisconsin, so we don’t see them much throughout the year, and it’s my favorite part of Christmas.

Nicholas Sweis: Every year during Christmas time, my family and I go to Millennium Park in Chicago to see their huge Christmas tree. We also do grab bags with my family on Christmas Eve at my grandma’s house. It’s sort of like Secret Santa. Then we open gifts from member to member.  On Christmas Day, every morning, we open presents and gifts. Considering the fact that I have a huge family, we go to my grandma’s house and celebrate Christmas together with family from Ohio and Illinois.  After the New Year, we make a sort of Arabic sweet bread called zalabia on January 6th. It celebrates the baptism of Jesus and it’s one of my favorites considering the fact that it celebrates the baptism of Jesus. 



Ms. Dempsey (Principal): Our biggest tradition growing up was that we were never allowed to open any presents until our grandparents came over on Christmas morning. We were always lucky that our grandparents lived just a few blocks away. We continued the tradition with my own kids since their grandparents lived in town as well. It was a great way to tell our kids to go back to bed because it was too early in the morning to “wake up” their grandparents. It never failed that when we finally called them to drive over they would say, “We have been waiting for your call, we have been up for hours.” ☺  Holidays are the best when we are surrounded by family!


Ms. Faulkner (PE Teacher): We go to church on Christmas Eve, always make a gingerbread house, read Luke 2 before opening gifts on Christmas Day,  and make and eat a Happy Birthday to Jesus cake.


Ms. Harris-Sumida (Media Specialist/School Librarian): My family reads the Lump of Coal by Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler). It is about a lump of coal that falls off his barbecue and goes off to seek his fortune in the world. He has hardships and then is telling them to a man in a red jacket with a white beard. This man suggests that he go jump into this bratty boy’s stocking, which he does. This bratty boy, Jasper, is very happy because he has always wanted to make art with coal. He and the lump of coal make many great works of art together and become very rich.

Another tradition is to read a story called “The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas” by Allie Brosch. It is about a little girl who sees a Christmas play at a church and decides it is not dramatic enough for her so she adds a whole bunch of things to the Christmas story to make it even more dramatic. It is a quite hysterical story. We contrast that crazy story with reading the Christmas story from the Bible.

We go out for dinner on Christmas Eve and then make pizza or something that requires us all to be cooking on Christmas Day and then we will go to a movie (if we all agree on one) or bowling or play games like Exploding Kitten or Settlers of Catan. There is a lot of togetherness at our household which is what we like. Now that my kids are older and are both away at college, it seems that we value our together time much more.


Nurse Rexford (School Nurse): My mom’s side of the family is Polish. We celebrate Christmas Eve and this is our tradition.  We do that right before dinner. We don’t follow the meatless dinner in our family.


Sharing Oplatek: A Time-Honored Tradition

One of the most beloved customs practiced locally by families of Polish/Lithuanian heritage is the sharing of the oplatek, or Christmas wafer, at the Christmas Eve supper. 

The breaking of oplatek (pronounced O-pwah-tek) between family members and any guests at the dinner is probably the most vividly remembered tradition of the holidays – and the one that is most often passed from generation to generation.

The sharing of the Christmas wafer originated more than 300 years ago in Poland, and it is also celebrated in parts of Lithuania, Latvia and Slovakia during Wigilia, the meatless supper of Christmas Eve. 

The unleavened Christmas wafer itself is baked from wheat flour and water, the same ingredients as the altar bread distributed during a Roman Catholic Mass as the Eucharist. The oplatek is often a rectangular, almost paper thin wafer embossed with religious images that can be easily broken when grasped by two people.

While traditions vary somewhat, they all start with the oldest or especially respected member of the family breaking pieces of the oplatek and distributing it to the rest of the people gathered. Each person then offers a piece to everyone else at the dinner, generally stating in some way how they care about that individual.


There were also answers from students who wanted to remain anonymous. Here is what they had to say:

-We have a lot of people over from aunts and uncles to nephews and nieces even great grandparents. It is always a fun time that I look forward to every year. We make a lot of traditional Hispanic food such as tacos, tamales, homemade salsas and guacamole, rice, beans, carne asada, chivo, and pozole. For dessert we break the Rosca de Reyes which has a small baby to symbolize Jesus. Whoever gets that piece hosts Navidad the next year.

-Every year after Black Friday, we go get a Christmas tree from the tree farm. On Christmas Eve, we all go to my uncle’s house and eat dinner, play a ton of games and exchange gifts. On Christmas morning we open presents and go to my grandfather’s.

-Around this time of year, I enjoy going snowboarding with my family.

-My family is very low-key when it comes to Christmas since not everyone in my family is religious. Every year my dad insists on getting a real tree from Menard’s, and somehow it seems to always happen on the same day, we go at the same time of night, and we park in the exact same place every year to get the same kind of tree. It is a random tradition that has no meaning, it just is.

-Every year on Christmas my family hosts a party here at my house. It is typically for my mom’s side of the family. People come over around 3 o’clock and eat food and spend time with the family. After eating, we open gifts, which is my favorite part. That is what I do every Christmas.

-Every Christmas me and my family have Christmas Eve brunch.

-Every winter I go to Mexico. I don’t just go to Cancun or any other place for a resort. I go to live in a place where my parents once grew up in and take in its beauty. It’s a really nice refresher for the year.

-Every winter time, the girls in my family all go downtown to watch a Christmas play and get dinner.

-During winter holiday, my family and I sit and eat a meal together.

-A Christmas tradition that my family and I have is that we can open one Christmas gift on Christmas Eve before bed. And if you open the Christmas gift then that means you have to go to bed.

-Every year on Christmas Eve, my family does a make your own pizza night and we watch a movie that we have wanted to see that came out during the year. We’ve been doing it as long as I can remember and it’s super nice.

-Every year my family alternates between going to my grandpa’s or my aunt’s house. At the house we eat homemade food, eat dessert, and then we open gifts. That is what we do for Christmas every year.



A Brief History

-Christmas is a symbol of Christ’s birth according to some religions, although Christmas Day isn’t when Christ was born. None of us actually know when Jesus was born. All we know is that it could have been in the spring, summer, fall, or winter.

-Christmas was actually canceled after Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans took over England.

-A movie that teaches us how to be thankful for everything we have and that we should never take what we have for granted would be a movie released in 2009 called A Christmas Carol. It was once known as a short novel and still is, but it’s well-known as a movie.

-Some of you may already know this, but in case you don’t, Santa’s nine helpful and magical reindeer are known as Dancer, Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Cupid, Blitzen, Vixen, Donner, and of course, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

-Santa Claus was originally the very wealthy, noble saint known as St. Nicholas the Wonderworker of Myra. He was born in 280 AD in present day Turkey, and he lived until his feast day on December 6, 343. 


There are a number of things people can do as Christmas traditions, as some of the examples shown above demonstrate. You can decorate a tree, which is the most popular tradition even today. I don’t think that that one will lose popularity.

I enjoyed updating you on winter traditions celebrated at OFHS. Students and staff enjoyed writing down their traditions as they are celebrating right now. I also look forward to seeing your comments on what you do around the holidays. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!