Faculty Christmas Traditions
Last Friday, students, professors and members from the surrounding community swarmed the walkway to enjoy Cairn’s popular annual event, Starry Nite. Helping the Cairn community get into the Christmas spirit, there were Christmas-themed photo booths, a large Christmas tree, Christmas lights galore, and even Christmas ornament decorating! With the students enlivened by the holiday spirit, The Scroll reached out to some faculty and staff to find out what their opinions on the upcoming holidays were! From New Year’s plans to favorite Christmas shows, the interviewees were questioned on their holiday plans and preferences!
Many of the Cairn faculty had exciting and unique traditions that they hold every Christmas. Dr. Master and Dr. Harding both enjoy listening to the broadcast of “Lessons and Carols” from Kings College, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve. Dr. Petersen enjoys going to the Philadelphia theatres to watch performances, and Dr. Ebersole always makes french onion soup and fillet minion for dinner on Christmas. Dean Sherf greatly enjoys the brunch party that his mother hosts for her side of the family on Christmas morning, where he and his two sisters get to participate in their age-old tradition of ‘find the pickle’, where their mother hides a pickle ornament in the Christmas tree and the three siblings have to race against each other to find it, the winner getting a small prize! With his own family, Dean Sherf is doing the Elf on the Shelf, who is named Snowflake. His six-year-old daughter greatly enjoys waking up to find out what Snowflake has been up to this time!
Of all the interviewed staff and faculty, however, Prof. Palladino had the most unique tradition. As a second-generation American, Professor Palladino’s Christmas Eve consists of the Italian tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes. This feast can contain mussel, shrimp, crabcake or other such delicacies along with fish, but all of it is made with homemade pasta. Professor Palladino is very excited to be hosting the Feast of Seven Fishes this year at his own home, and he invites anyone who wants to join it to contact him and let him know! Prof. Palladino and his wife also celebrate their own Christmas on epiphany, and they do not exchange gifts with each other until then.
Aside from the Feast of Seven Fishes, Prof. Palladino also has a unique tradition with presents for his children. Instead of any presents from Santa, Professor Palladino and his wife come up with historical or literary figures that the presents will be from. The giver of the gift is always tied in with the gift itself, and the kids try to guess what the gift might be based on the historical or literary figure on the gift tag. His kids greatly enjoy this tradition, and they even name their toys and their pets after historical figures as well!
When questioned on what their favorite holiday activity was, aside from attending special church services and singing hymns, many professors expressed a delight in Christmas food and spending time with family. Dr. Toews and Dr. Master delight in egg-nog, while some professors like special home-made meals like Dr. Minto’s father’s fish chowder, Plum Crazy Cake, and fudge and Dean Sherf’s mother’s french toast bake. On the more cultural side of the spectrum, Dr. Ebersole stated that her favorite holiday food was foie gras, which is basically goose liver, a French delicacy. Of course, each interviewee was asked whether they enjoyed candy canes or not! It was almost split right down the middle, with four saying they enjoy them and three saying they weren’t very fond of them.
When discussing favorite holiday activities, favorite holiday songs and movies just had to come up. They all expressed an enjoyment with some of the ‘classic’ Christmas films, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Dean Sherf and his daughter), A Christmas Carol (Dr. Petersen, who enjoys different versions), It’s a Wonderful Life (Dr. Harding), Elf (Dr. Minto, Dean Sherf), and Home Alone (Dr. Ebersole and Dr. Petersen). As far as music, there was a wide selection that was enjoyed. From ‘The Christmas Revels’ (Prof. Palladino) to ‘Silver Bells’ (Dr. Minto), they enjoy a variety of Christmas music.
With finals week almost over, the professors and staff were questioned as to what their plans were for Winter Break, despite it being rather short this year. Several held plans to visit family members. Dr. Minto is looking forward to sitting down with a good book, and Prof. Palladino is hoping to get some rest and to work on the rough draft of his dissertation. Dean Sherf is hoping to read an organizational book during break, surf (of course), and spend some quality time playing with his daughters.
To challenge the misconception that men always procrastinate on their Christmas shopping, I asked each interviewee whether they had completed any of their Christmas shopping. Out of the five men interviewed, three said that they hadn’t (or had barely) started on their Christmas shopping. However, the women were on the same page, only having a few things purchased so far, mainly through online venues.
With the emergence of the digital era, I asked the professors and faculty if they did Christmas photos or sent Christmas cards. Four out of six claimed that they often didn’t do family photos, at least nothing professional, while others like Dr. Harding mentioned that they tried to do family photos but it was difficult because his one-year-old doesn’t smile for pictures very easily. In the realm of Christmas cards, everyone felt that they were nice to receive, but many of them feel that they just didn’t have the time to send them. It was generally agreed that cards were nice when they were sent with meaning and special care instead of just a ‘form letter’. Those that did send out cards, like Professor Jim Meyer, claimed that they were very grateful for their wives for taking care of the matter of Christmas cards.
Finally, with the new year coming up, they were all asked what they were most looking forward to in the year 2016. Dr. Toews said that he looks forward to getting healthy again, and I remind everyone to keep the Provost in your prayers! Dr. Master is excited to see what his kids will accomplish, and is looking forward to publishing another book. Dr. Minto is desperate for spring, but she is especially looking forward to having a year with no big accreditation visits, since the past year has held two successful visits of such nature. Prof. Palladino is hoping to finish the rough draft of his dissertation, and Dr. Ebersole can’t wait to get back to work in her garden. Dr. Harding is excited for the incoming Freshman class for the Spring and Fall. Dean Sherf perhaps has the most to look forward to in 2016, when he not only goes to Nicaragua in May, but is getting a son in February!
All of the professors and faculty are looking forward to winter break and the holidays just as much as the students are! As finals week progresses, don’t forget to show a gesture of kindness and thankfulness to them for all the hard work they’ve done over the semester. And don’t forget to contact Prof. Palladino if you’re in the area on Christmas Eve and want to join his Feast of Seven Fishes!
A big thank you to all of the faculty and staff that worked along with me with the interviews for this article, and a good luck to both staff and students as Fall 2015 comes to a close. We’re almost there, everyone. We can do it! Best of luck!