Holidays are one of the best times of year for college students. They are a break from schoolwork and responsibilities and a chance to spend time with family and friends. For me they are the time in the fall semester where the swim team has a lot of hard training because there is no school. But at my house it’s all play.
Thanksgiving break is about all the things we are thankful for and how much food we can eat as we avoid the schoolwork that lays before us in the days before finals. Christmas break is about spending time with the ones we love the most and the Christmas story of Jesus. The things I look forward to most about the holidays with my family are the foods we eat and the traditions we have.
Thanksgiving break for my family and I involves a lot of eating and TV watching. Like most families we have a large Thanksgiving meal, but that is not when the eating festivities begin for us. We wake up on Thanksgiving Day and eat breakfast. We then watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which we recorded in order to fast forward the commercials. Once it is about 11 am we break out the parade watching snacks, everything from chips and salsa, guacamole, and queso to veggies with ranch to spinach dip with bread.
Once the Parade is over we stay on NBC and watch the National Dog Show. As a family who does not have dogs and are not particularly dog lovers we often find ourselves making jokes about the dogs that are shown and laughing our heads off. When the Dog Show is over we switch over to football, but this is usually the time of day when everyone falls asleep, so football becomes background noise. Dinner at the Raab house is usually around 5 pm and although we have nice tablecloths and dishes, we are still in our sweats. When the food is almost gone and we can’t eat anymore we go around the table and all say five things that we are thankful for. The only rule is that you can’t repeat anything that was already said.
The day after Thanksgiving means swim practice, movie watching, and spending time as a family. We are a family of athletes, and holiday breaks are no reason to miss a workout. The three swimmers in our family roll out early and get a swim practice in. As a family we not much into Black Friday because we don’t like big crowds and crowded stores. Instead of shopping my mom and I and whoever else wants to join will start watching the Hallmark Christmas movies. Although we have probably seen them all, we still enjoy watching them. The Friday after Thanksgiving also includes family board game time.
Christmas decorations at my house include the many nativities that my mother has collected over the years. We actually went around the house this year and counted them. We counted 59 but are sure that we missed some and that more would be received as gifts this year for Christmas. Each nativity is unique. One is wooden and hand carved from Korea that is a family heirloom. Another is made from banana leaves. My favorite nativity though is the Willow Tree one. It is very pretty to look at; each piece was crafted beautifully. The nativity pieces sometimes magically appear in other places. One of the nativities in the kitchen has pieces that have been found in the fridge, the pantry, the medicine cabinet, and the container of cookies on the counter. Whenever my mom finds the pieces she takes a picture of them in their new location and sends it to me.
We have a set of Merry Christmas block letters. Every time you walk by the letters they say something else. This year has been out of control with new words created. Everything from “my rich armrests” to “cherry mistmars” to “I c smart rhymers”. Each one is funny to read and they change rather quickly so you may miss some of the best ones. This adds a comical element to the holiday season and we laugh about the different combinations often. It was cool to see how many things could be made of those 14 letters.
Christmas Eve typically starts off with an early morning swim practice. We attend the Christmas Eve service in the late afternoon at church. On the way home we pick up Chinese food for dinner. We read the Christmas story out of the Bible during dinner, usually with each person taking a turn. After we have eaten, we open one present that is for the entire family, and some years we all open one present of our own. The family present is always a new board game that we play as a family after dinner. When we open a present of our own, we usually get matching jammies that are perfect for the family Christmas morning photo in front of the tree. After the fun of Christmas Eve, my four siblings and I have our annual sleepover. This sleepover usually involves TV watching, more games, and staying up to midnight to check isitchristmas.com before falling asleep.
Christmas Day begins no earlier than 8 am. We start with stockings, and where our stockings are located becomes our present drop off zone during the present opening. My parents give us kids three gifts a year: something we need, something we want, and something that is a surprise. The three gifts are symbolic of the gifts that the three wisemen brought to Jesus after He was born. I have four siblings, but each year I only give gifts to two siblings. On odd years I give gifts to my sister Allie and brother Luke, on even years I give gifts to my sister Shannon and brother Tim. The surprise present involves a sibling scavenger hunt that has evolved from simply following the clues in the house to getting pictures of places sent to our phones and upon figuring out which location was next, we sent selfies or videos of why this place is important to us to get the next clue. The scavenger hunt is always fun for the five of us. Once all the presents are opened, its time to assemble and play with gifts, learn how gifts work, and eating something to curb the hunger feelings until dinner. Christmas dinner used to a spiral ham, but for the last couple years has been standing rib roast.
The holiday break draws to end for me a couple days after Christmas as I have to head back to school earlier than normal students because of practice, I think about the time I have had at home with my family.
The New Year is approaching and the talk has turned from what people want for Christmas to the resolutions people will make for the coming year. Personally I don’t make any resolutions because I believe that one can change anything about them anytime during the year, not just at the beginning. But there are several things that I look forward to with the New Year. The swim season’s biggest competitions are in February (SECs) and March (NCAAs). As someone who thrives with the stress of competition, this is an exciting time for me. I look forward to the changing of the seasons from winter to spring. Spring is my favorite time of year because all the plants are turning green and blooming again, animals come out of hibernation, and the weather warms up. There are so many outdoorsy things to do and places to explore in the spring and summer time around Athens and Nashville that I say I will venture out to and find, but usually doesn’t happen.
The biggest thing that I think about as one year ends and another begins are all the things that I accomplished, and where my new goals are. This year included my two best semesters in school ever, being a part of a SEC and NCAA winning relay, a NCAA championship with the best team around, my first major concert, a top 10 finish in the country at Olympic Trials, a road-trip with my brother to our grandparents house, the chance to live broadcast high school sporting events, the wedding of a former teammate and friend, and I was baptized. So many great things happened in 2016, and I know that 2017 will hold so many great things that I can’t even imagine yet.