The holidays are quickly approaching, and we love looking back at years past to recount our favorite memories and traditions.
We asked our residents to share stories of their best holiday memories and were overwhelmed with the response. Read below for some of our favorite submissions, and check out our social media channels throughout the season to read more!
German Christmas Traditions
Submitted by Heidi B.
I grew up in Germany with two sisters. During Advent, we had a wreath with four candles, but it all started with the Advent Kalendar, a picture with 24 little windows to open, one every day until Holy Night.
On the 5th of December, St. Nicholas Day, we put a shoe outside the bedroom door and if it had goodies in it the next morning, all was well. If it had a little stick in it, it meant one had three more weeks to be on the best behavior for Father Christmas to come with gifts on the 24th. And Father Christmas knew everything! It was nerve-wracking.
We also had the Christkindles Market (Weihnachtsmarkt), an outdoor bazaar in town. It sold everything one needed for the occasion. You could get all of those items in department stores, but they didn’t have the ambiance of the smell of bratwurst, hot chocolate for the kids, hot wine for the adults, roasted almonds, gingerbread cookies - and the freezing temperatures. But it was fun.
After church on the 24th, we had our tree put up with 12 real candles, one each for the 12 holy nights. Most of our gifts weren’t wrapped, but there were three wrapped gifts under the tree, one each for us three children. Our parents lit the candles on the tree and we all sang Christmas songs. The flames were then put out, and we served the traditional Christmas goose.
The next day, we all went to Granny’s place for a repeat of the festivities. It was all a magical time.
The Chimney Surprise
Submitted by Nan S. and daughter Nancy
For a five-year-old, there’s about a year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But that glorious morning had finally arrived. My eyes popped open. Had Santa Claus come? Lying motionless, I listened closely. Breakfast sounds drifted from the kitchen. Then I heard our houseguest giggle.
Tingling all over with excitement, I crawled out of bed, pulled on my slippers and headed toward the living-room. My fifteen-year-old sister, Louise, and Mrs. Butler must have been watching for me, and it seemed they had already peeked and knew Santa had been there, because they were even more excited than I was.
As I entered the living room and headed straight for the Christmas tree, both of them stood in my way, eagerly calling my attention to the back of the fireplace, where Santa had scraped his boots on the way down. My heart beat fast and I’m sure my eyes were wide as I took it all in.
There lay a box of sparklers on the hearth. A little further toward the tree was a box of crayons. My goodness! Santa’s bag must have been so full things were spilling out all over the place! There was another box of sparklers, some nuts, and an orange.
Finally, the trail ended at the Christmas tree, where under its rope- and tinsel-draped branches sat the most beautiful doll in the whole world. I don’t remember what other gifts there were, but I knew I had proof that Santa had brought my doll. After all, surely nobody else would have left boot scrapes in our fireplace!
Many of my childhood Christmases sort of run together in my memory, but I will never forget that special Christmas. When I was older and learned that Mrs. Butler had instigated that elaborate ruse for my pleasure, I loved her even more for adding to my five-year-old wonder and excitement that Christmas morning.
Submitted by Louise N.
Christmas Day 1960 began in much the same way as all previous Christmas Days in the Nixon household. Our family consisted of Mommy, Daddy, Ann aged 6, Brenda aged 4, and Brent aged 2.
That morning, my husband and I were awakened at 6 a.m: "Mommy! Daddy! Santa Claus came!"
We both struggled out of bed and followed the brood to the living room. "Presents first or breakfast first?" I asked. The answer was a resounding "Presents!" Soon all the gifts were claimed except for one, a soft furry toy Bassett hound that remained untouched beneath the tree.
That evening, the family enjoyed the customary Christmas dinner — turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas and carrots, and salad — all prepared by me. When I got up to slice the pecan pie, I suddenly realized that young Nixon #4 was anxious to make an appearance.
My husband notified the sitter, then drove me to the hospital through a blinding snowstorm. A nurse alerted the obstetrician to "Come at once!" The doctor left his own Christmas dinner and headed to the hospital where he skidded on ice driving into the parking lot. Leaving his car sitting crosswise at the entry gate, he ran inside to deliver a strapping ten-pound baby boy.
The doctor then advised me, "Next time you have a baby, Louise, I'm gonna camp on your doorstep." With that, he headed back home to finish his Christmas dinner.
My poor husband got stuck with our dishes. We didn't have a dishwasher, so he washed and dried all the dishes by hand, but when it came to the food-encrusted pans,-- well, they ended up in the trash.
Our fourth child, Brad, was the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received. Speaking of gifts — that toy Bassett hound under the tree? Santa had left it there for Brad.
Holidays in the Hospital
Submitted by Peggy K.
Working as a nurse manager on a bustling surgical unit was challenging, especially during the holidays. Our unit received a pediatric patient from the ER during the last week of November. A kindergarten student, she had fallen off a swing at recess and broken her leg.
Her name was Emily. At five years old, she didn’t take up much room in the bed. Traction for a broken femur, at that time, meant healing in bed with a pin through her bone. She was frightened the first week but soon settled into a routine.
December brought us the winter we all hated - cold and snow - but Emily loved it. She told her nurse one day that she was afraid Santa would never find her at the hospital.
This began a tradition of our unit adopting a family every year for Christmas. Our first family would be Emily’s. We arranged to purchase items from a list of needed presents for Emily, her single mother, and her older sister.
We also arranged for Santa to come to the unit one day. He arrived with jingle bells and a “Ho-Ho-Ho.” Emily was so surprised as she spotted him entering her room.
“Santa, I’m so glad you came! I love you, Santa,” she said. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Santa had indeed found Emily and visited her that Christmas Eve.
Read More Otterbein Holiday Stories
We have even more stories to share with you from all the submissions we received! Follow our Facebook page to stay up to date as we share additional holiday stories all season long.