DURHAM, N.C. -- Members of the Blue Devil women's soccer team and their families shared their favorite Christmas memories as well as photos from different parts of their lives growing up around the holidays. Make sure you check out the link to the photo gallery to the right, which has photos from members of the soccer team as they grew up.
Happy Holidays from the Duke women's soccer team.
The thing that I enjoy the most about Christmas is all the time I get to spend with my family. I don't think that I appreciated Christmas as much as I do now as a college student away from home. My favorite memory is actually from last year when I woke up to a White Christmas. It just made the atmosphere that much more festive. We have a tradition of going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve and it has never changed. After Midnight Mass, we are each allowed to open one Christmas present and obviously, I choose to open the biggest one. The next morning, after about 3 hours of sleep, we usually wake up to the smell of my mom's Christmas breakfast. We hurry to eat and then, open the rest of our presents. The best present I have ever gotten was my pink convertible Barbie Corvette. All the other neighborhood kids were jealous when they saw me cruising around with my sunglasses on (even though it was winter haha).
Most of the time, the annual family Christmas Party on Christmas day is held at our house with the rest of our extended family but, in some cases, we drive an hour to Plano to visit my Aunt and Uncle and two younger cousins. There we have a big dinner and just basically relax. I love this time because it is full of stories and just and overall good time. That is what makes Christmas my favorite holiday of the year!
Christmas time at the Thomas house is more spirited than that of your Average-Joe-Christmas-loving family. From top to bottom, my mom decks the house out in Christmas apparel with garlands and lights around the banisters to snowmen figures on every counter. Her over-the-top attitude and love for Christmas has rubbed off on my sisters, Katie and Laura, and me.
It wouldn't be a rare sight to catch us watching the Grinch in mid-July as preparation for the approaching holiday. We sometimes have to beg the Grinch of the House (my dad) to put up the lights outside, but eventually the Thomas household is a winter wonderland.
As you can imagine with this much enthusiasm for Christmas, we have quite a few traditions. It starts the day after Thanksgiving when we trek up to the mountains to cut down our two Christmas trees. Every year it is the same: 2 hours per tree to find the perfect trees. Of course once we find them, chop them down (usually cutting down the tallest trees in the forest, thus always finding ourselves with too much tree), carry them to the car, drive them home without being able to see through our windshield and constantly monitoring for movement, put them up in the house, somehow we still seem to have found ourselves with at least one (if not two) Charlie Brown Christmas Trees.
Our Christmas Eve traditions always include a Christmas-themed movie, (The Little Fockers this year), then Christmas Eve Mass, and that is when the festivities truly begin. While my mom is making dinner I track Santa online. By this time, he is usually in Europe. Then my sisters and I make our name signs so Santa knows where to put our presents. These places have not changed since we were little, however there is something about the tradition of writing our signs which must be continued.
After dinner we are each allowed to open one gift from under the tree. Choose carefully... Lastly my favorite tradition, before bed, all dressed in our Christmas jammies, my dad pulls out the Christmas classic T'was the Night Before Christmas and reads to us three girls. These are just a few of our traditions, so I am sure you can only imagine what Christmas day is like at the Thomas house...truly wonderful!
Bill & Anna DeCesare (Parents of Kim DeCesare)
Kimberly was about eight years old and it had snowed on Christmas Eve. In the morning after the Kim and her brother woke up, Kim's dad made them look out the window. Snow had fallen from the roof onto the top of the garage which was a flat surface and looked like hoof prints in the snow. Her dad told her the reindeer had made the imprints in the snow and she believed him.
Rusty and Ann Jandl (Parents of Libby Jandl)
Each Christmas, the Jandl family went on a snow skiing trip to Colorado for many years starting when the kids were very young. All four kids went. Also, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and many cousins went. A very big crew, it was one where you had to learn to fend for yourself.
Libby went for two years as a baby and stayed in the condo with an aunt during the ski day. Ski school required you be at least age three. At two years and eight months, Libby said she could attend ski school. Somehow we snuck her in the all day ski school. She did great being by herself in a class of 20 kids she never met. She did great all day with a ski instructor she had no idea who they were. She did great skiing. She was a fast learner. After the third day at less than three years old, she joined the rest of the family on the mountain and skied right with us the rest of the trip.
It says a lot about Libby's place in the family, fourth of four kids. She was determined at that young age to do whatever it took to keep up with the rest of the family. She proved by passing ski school with flying colors that she deserved to be skiing with the rest of the family.
Today, Libby is a fabulous double black diamond snow skier. Of course, so are the other siblings!!!!
My favorite Christmas memory was when I was younger and I asked for a laptop for Christmas. I even wrote Santa a note because I wanted it so badly. Sadly Santa wrote back that they ran out of laptop parts. That didn't stop me though because the next year I asked for the parts to make a laptop...I didn't get those either.
Some of my favorite Christmas memories come from my high school soccer Christmas parties. Each year the coaches, parents, and all of the girls would head over to Molly Quiqley's house for the annual party. If Molly's mom, who had been known to dance around wearing whitey tighties over her pants to pump us up before games, wasn't fun enough, there was always the epic gingerbread house building contest. Five teams, one hour, and a race to make the best gingerbread house. Keeping your house's theme a secret was a top priority, as was sending out spies to check out the competition. Trading gumdrops for Hershey Kisses was all part of the strategy and extra points were given for houses that had a soccer related theme.
My senior year I collected together the ultimate team comprised of the creative one, Chelsea Kelly, the brave one, Carmen Abella, the smart one, Jessica Petznick, and the secret weapon, goalkeeper Annie Graham. Naturally we made the front yard of our gingerbread house into a soccer field and sculpted mini soccer players out of marshmallows and toothpicks. We used the tin foil from the Hershey Kisses to make a golden path that led from the house (our high school) to the game field (the State Championship). Along the way we had a small figurine of our rival, Corona del Sol, crumbled and twisted on the side of the path - obviously, we would destroy them on the road to State. The entire set up was brilliant if I do say so myself, but that was mostly because of our secret weapon, Annie, who added soccer goals made of red twister in the final minutes. The rush of making gingerbread houses was fun, but the memories shared with those girls are unforgettable. It wasn't the holiday season in Phoenix without a Xavier Soccer Christmas party.
Bill & Anna DeCesare (Parents of Kim DeCesare)
A favorite memory we have of Kim was when she was around five and a half. She loves animals and every Christmas the first thing on her list was a dog as well as some other kind of animal or reptile. Her father is allergic to animals so we knew we would never get that dog, but it didn't stop Kimberly from asking for one until she was about 16. That Christmas Santa decided to give her and her brother Will, who was two and a half, each a parakeet. Kim's parakeet was nice but her brother William's would bite. Kimberly was always looking for creative ways to do things. The day after Christmas she took the two parakeets out of their cage (with huge gloves on her hand), put them on her pink remote control Barbie car and had them riding around the house in luxury. It was the funniest scene because the birds didn't even attempt to fly away even when the car bumped into a wall or cabinet, or was going around in circles. They just hung out on the top of the Barbie car. Thankfully, we have it all on tape and when we watch the old videos we still laugh like crazy.
Jeff & Julie Allen (Parents of Rebecca Allen)
It was the early hours of Christmas morning, and Rebecca and her brother were tucked in bed asleep. Rebecca was 10 or 11 years old and having some doubts about the "magic of Christmas." Jeff and I were downstairs finishing all the final preparations for the big day. The breakfast casserole was ready in the refrigerator, the gifts were wrapped and the tools were put away from the Herculean effort necessary for the "assembly required" toys. We were ready to fall into bed from exhaustion. I was about to turn off the kitchen lights when I bent down to pick up something from the floor. Out of the corner of my eye something caught my attention under the counter.
After closer inspection, I found a piece of notebook paper carefully taped to the underside of the breakfast bar. At some point during the evening, unknown to us, Rebecca had stuck the piece of paper in this secret place. On the paper in Rebecca's own handwriting were a couple of questions --- for Santa! She quizzed him to find out if he knew her favorite food and her favorite color. It was her way of testing to see if there really was a Santa Claus. Jeff and I smiled and chuckled and carefully put it back as we had found it. The next morning, in all the excitement of presents and paper, we did not see Rebecca retrieve the page. In fact, nothing was ever mentioned about it for a couple of years. She had to have had her doubts put to rest, for a little while at least, when she saw that Santa had answered all her questions correctly and even embellished the page a little with his own Christmas wish. The "magic of Christmas" lives.
We have a mother- daughter cookie exchange every year at my house a few days before Christmas. My two sisters and I invite all of our friends and their mothers, so we probably have around 100 people over to our house.
Our family goes skiing every year a few days after Christmas. We go with my mom's entire side of the family- her sisters, my cousins, grandparents. We go to Colorado for three days. I started skiing when I was two because I am the youngest person in my entire family.
Christmas pretty much changes every year for me, never the same group of family or any one tradition but this year should be really special. My dad just got back from Afghanistan on Dec. 19 and was in Virginia waiting for my sister and me to come spend the holiday with him this year. It's just going to be a small group of family from my Dad's side and we'll spend about four days together in the middle of nowhere in our log cabin in the mountains. I'm really looking forward to it!
Most children's love for Christmas comes from the fantasy of Santa Claus and the belief in his reindeer, his elves, his workshop, and the curiosity in how he magically delivers all the presents to every child in the world in one night; however, a majority of my childhood was deprived of this magical aspect of Christmas when my older brother showed me the stash of presents when I was in the second grade. Nevertheless, I played along in believing in Santa for the sake of my sister, who is four years younger than me, and enjoyed watching Christmas movies, drinking hot chocolate, and putting out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. This went on until she was in 7th or 8th grade, and I found myself caught in this stage of being unsure if Maddie still believed... to my dismay, my mom and I had started to realize that Maddie did not in fact believe, however, feared that if she didn't pretend there would be no more presents. So, I found myself pretending for my sister who was pretending... To this day, I am still confused as to why some presents read: "To Nicole, From Santa." I think I'm finally realizing why I enjoy the Christmas carols, decorations, snow, ice skating, sledding and holiday treats rather than the so-called "magic of Christmas."
My favorite part of Christmas is being with my family. We always drive to the mountains right after Thanksgiving to cut down a Christmas tree. My sister and I always count the number of trees on top of cars that we see while driving. We end up getting to really ridiculous totals that are probably not accurate at all. Then, we stop in this little town called Todd, N.C. There is an old fashioned general store with no heat or A/C and wooden floors. There is a big stove in the middle that heats the entire store. It's such a quaint little place and we love going there.
On Christmas Eve, we always have a fire going and my sister and I curl up in sleeping bags in our living room and my dad reads "The Night before Christmas" in his best narrator voice. I'm usually the one to fall asleep before it's halfway over, while my sister tries to recite the story from memory. Then, we head to bed and wait for Santa to come.
On Christmas Day, my sister always comes and wakes me up really early. Then, we try and force my parents to wake and get breakfast started. Then, my dad gets the video camera ready and starts a fire, and my mom has her camera ready. Once everything is set up and my parents have stalled enough and my sister and I are dying with anticipation, we sprint downstairs to see what Santa brought us.
There are usually shrieks of joy and pure excitement. After we look at all of those gifts, my grandma comes over and we all eat breakfast together, and then we open up presents. After the excitement from ripping open boxes and throwing bows and paper everywhere, we settle down a little and head over to my grandma's house. She only lives about five minutes away and everyone on my dad's side of the family comes over. That may sound like a lot of people, but it's actually only 14 people, and that's only if everyone is there. So we all sit together and eat Christmas lunch/dinner and then open up more presents and eat dessert. Then, my family heads back home, after eating lots and lots of good food, and my sister and I play with our new presents!
Christmas is, by far, my favorite holiday!
My favorite holiday tradition would have to be having my entire family over at our house for Christmas Eve dinner. It is always a time of sharing great food, fun stories, and genuine family time. Before my grandmother passed away, this event would always be held in my grandparents' much too small house incapable of comfortably holding our 40 guests. Somehow we all managed with the lack of space and had great family dinners year after year. The same elements of great food, stories, and family bonding were all there, but for 6-year-old Lynnea, this Christmas gathering was not always so pleasant. Of course I loved the presents, singing happy birthday to Jesus, and blowing out the candles (which, one year, I too eagerly tried to accomplish and nearly set my hair ablaze), however, with the good also came the bad. I feared my Uncle Tom in his Santa Clause get-up more than anything else. I would cry, kick, and scream begging my parents not to make me sit on the man's lap whose sleeves were too short, white beard was on crookedly, and who creepily knew my name.
If having to fear the man holding my Christmas presents captive was not bad enough, I had to fear what mischievous thing my devilish cousin Johnny would be plotting to do this Christmas. Throwing a cat on my cousin Amanda's face while screaming "Merry Christmas" and cutting my sister's hair with a pair of scissors were just a few of the pleasant gestures he had graced us with in previous years. But now, 14 years later, Johnny has grown, somewhat matured, and now has a little boy of his own named Skyler. Let me just say this, genetics can be a scary thing. He has his father's eyes and, even though he is only four, some of Johnny's same evil tendencies are shining through. At times when he looks at me with those bright blue eyes, I cannot help but see the same devilish boy holding those scissors who plagued my dreams for years.
I had some trouble picking out a favorite holiday memory because all of my Christmases are the best - it is my favorite day of the year! I my main memory is there is an iron clad rule in my house that I am not allowed to wake my parents up before 6:00 a.m. (yes, this rule still applies even though I'm 18 years old).
Typically my Dad is up at 4:00 a.m., so, it's just my mother I have to worry about. Ever since I was little I would wake up just before 5 a.m. and count the seconds down till it was 6 a.m., or at least 5:59. Since anxiously waiting around a dark house is no fun, I insisted that I go to the 24-hour Dunkin' Donuts with my Dad. (Although I would like to remind everybody that I have an unwavering allegiance to Starbucks). He sits there and reads the paper while I eat my non-fat blueberry muffin and imagine what Santa and his helpers placed under our tree (I am indeed still a believer). The time I spend with my Dad at the break of down each Christmas is something I will cherish forever. I bet my Mom enjoys that extra hour as well.
Annual Christmas card picture taking is an Allen family tradition, and although not my favorite, it is always quite the event. Every year my mom gives my dad, brother (24), and I a theme of clothing to wear for the picture. One year was primary colors (we looked like a crayon box), another year all white (not a good choice for a pale family). In more recent years, after all of our complaints, she has given up and just told us to wear whatever we want. Once we have coordinated outfits, it's time for the actual picture taking. After shooting 60 something pictures in what seems like a magazine photo shoot, we head back home to look at them on the computer.
After analyzing them all we usually end up back at square one. Mom's happy with her hair in one, but dad looks way too small because of the rock he's sitting on. My brother is pleased with his smile in another, but I look like a linebacker. After hours of debate (and often times taking even more pictures), we usually pick one that no one seems happy with. Even though every year we all roll of eyes at Christmas card picture time, we always laugh about it later. If only the people that received our cards knew what it took to get that picture.
My favorite Christmas memory was from when I was probably 12 years old. On Christmas day we had this huge snow storm hit Rochester that dropped about three feet of snow. There already was probably a one foot base, so this resulted in a substantial amount. All the roads were closed and the snow continued to fall throughout the evening. We had our usual Christmas morning, with un-wrapping gifts and my mom making Sausage biscuits for all to enjoy.
After all the opening of gifts was done and my brothers were off playing with their new X-Box, my dad being the avid skier he is decided it was perfect conditions to go skiing, but not downhill...cross-country. (Yes, I often cross-country skied with him and I still make a yearly outing over the Holidays. I know my teammates will probably get a laugh out of that!) However, with the roads closed, it seemed an impossible task. So me being the youngest and most likely to participate, I was asked me to go on a skiing "adventure" basically around the neighborhood and surrounding streets.
Anyways around 1:00 we headed out and were able to hit up the main roads that typically were busy with cars, abandoned now due to the snow, and we were able to ski right down the center of them as the snow accumulated around us. My mom managed to get some funny pictures of the two of us skiing down the main street! This is my most memorable Christmas and it is not because of a gift that I got that I had longed for, rather it was a time spent with my Dad. I think that is the most special thing about the holidays and this memory will be one I keep forever.
Like most people I have the benefit of remembering Christmases full of presents and bringing the entire family together in order to celebrate. With very similar experiences to my teammates, I have always loved this holiday not only for the excitement of receiving presents, but getting to see the look on family member's faces when you give them a present that they really love. I suppose there are many memories I could choose from that capture the joy of this holiday, but one special one actually occurred this past weekend and so even though it is not a Christmas day holiday, I believe that the following is what Christmas is all about: I am fortunate to be part of a unique and diverse family. My family was lucky enough to have had an addition to our group 25 years ago this year.
One of my biggest supporters, who has driven from Richmond for nearly every home game this past season, is my Aunt Khoeun. Khoeun, whom I admire greatly, arrived in the U.S. a quarter of a decade ago and I am so thankful that she did.
This is a woman who had to flee from the treacherous rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and walk with her small child on her back to flee the dangers of her home. After her long journey, a stay in a refugee camp, she and her son ended up in Richmond, Va. where they would soon become a part of our family.
Khoeun is an extraordinary woman with a courageous story and I cannot imagine my family without her. We celebrated her 25th year in the United States this past Saturday and most of my extended family and friends were there to take part in this celebration. This will be a holiday memory that I will always cherish.
As far Christmas traditions go, we Fitzgerald's keep it pretty simple.
Seeing as most of our extended family lives in North Carolina, the four of us "me, Tanya, John, and Cat" just hangout around the house in Cincinnati and visit with our family friends. One thing that we do every year is watch "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life". The version of "A Christmas Carol" that we watch is rather dark and scary. I can remember many a Christmas Eves that I struggled to fall asleep not because I was excited for presents the next morning, but because I was terrified that the ghost of Jacob Marley was going to walk into my room and scream at me.
Every Christmas Day we go back to our neighbor's house and have a big Christmas dinner with them. These neighbors, Bob and Sudie, are like my grandparents and have lived in Cincinnati their whole lives. In light of this, they know EVERYONE. So one year we show up for dinner and I walk into the kitchen only to find Johnny Bench, the Hall of Fame catcher who played for the Reds (when they were good). I proceeded to have dinner with him that evening "at the kids" table. He was quite the dinner date and found me equally as charming, I'm sure.
I was born in Colorado even though I live in Texas now, but every Christmas we go to Denver or the mountains for Christmas or at least some of winter break. My extended family including my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins all usually meet there, as well. All of the kids and the dads usually ski or snowboard and the mom's usually shop or go to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.
Christmas eve we usually play charades which ends up lasting hours. It gets really amusing because of the generation gaps. My grandfather is usually coming up with clues about famous political leaders while we are making clues about the latest music or movie stars. My family is also very competitive so the game gets pretty cut-throat. Then we play catch phrase, and my grandmother still to this day (after playing for several years) always says 'can we turn that beep off' (which is the whole point of the game to not have it in your hand when it stops beeping) --so we always laugh at her. Christmas day we have a nice dinner all together and we usually have a movie marathon all day by the fire and then go sledding in the snow with my cousins.
It's just always great to be with my family and my extended family and everyone is really easygoing and likes to have a good time.