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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Winter Traditions at Chamblee

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Winter Traditions at Chamblee

Photo by Hope Williams.

Photo by Hope Williams.

Photo by Hope Williams.

Hope Williams, Staff writer

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Although Chamblee Charter High School students don’t know for sure if there will be snow this winter, they can look forward to spending time with family and celebrating the season with traditions.

At Chamblee, many holidays are celebrated, a common one being Christmas. Traditions include movies, activities with family, and even interesting foods.

“For as long as I can remember, on Christmas Eve, we make lobster for dinner,” said senior Grace Pietkiewicz. “It’s probably because my dad is from New England. It’s kind of comfort food for him.”

When she was younger, she would watch her parents prepare dinner. Now, her role has changed.

“In the last few years I’ve started to help my dad by cracking the tails and it’s kind of something fun we do together, like family bonding,” said Pietkiewicz. “A weird part is [that] he eats the guts, which disgusts me.”

Besides the food, the Pietkiewicz family has several activities on Christmas Eve.

“Our normal Christmas Eve is we have dinner, we exchange a gift, and then we go to midnight mass at my church, and then we go to bed and have a fun Christmas morning,” said Pietkiewicz.

Another Chamblee student, Lydia Davis, enjoys more traditional food.  

“Every year, me and my cousins, we go to my grandma’s house and we bake cookies, like, so many cookies,” said Davis. “We usually give them out to neighbors or we just keep it to ourselves and eat them at Christmas dinner.”

Most of her Christmas is spent at her grandmother’s.

“It comes to Christmas Day and we just hang out at her house and open presents,” said Davis.

Simon Maied likes a certain drink that he associates with chilly weather.

“I like to drink hot chocolate with a bunch of marshmallows and whipped cream on top, like whenever it snows,” said Maied.

Autumn Snipes enjoys watching movies with her family during the holiday season, such as romantic comedy (rom-com) Christmas movies.

“Me and my mom, we’re rom-com [fans], we love that stuff,” said Snipes, whose favorites also include science-fiction movies such as “What Happened to Monday.”

Davis and her family enjoy watched movies more closely related to the holidays.

“We always watch ‘Elf’ on Christmas Eve,” said Davis.

Others enjoy a more traditional activity.

“Every single year, the day after Thanksgiving, my family gets together and we decorate our tree and we have the tradition of always drinking hot chocolate and eating popcorn while we decorate our tree,” said Francesca Mariano.

Junior and Jewish Student Union (JSU) officer Keren Sahar celebrates another festive holiday, Hanukkah. JSU has several activities planned.

“For Hanukkah, this entire season, we have two meetings,” said Sahar. “The first one, we, a couple of weeks ago, made dreidels that everyone designs and we teach everyone how to play and it’s really cute. All the dreidels that we make are actually donated to a children’s hospital.”

The next meeting will involve food.

“We’re going to be making potato pancakes, which is like the latkes, a religious food we eat,” said Sahar.

Outside of JSU, Sahar celebrates Hanukkah with her family. Hanukkah lasts for eight days and nights.

“Every night, since the eve, which this year was on Sunday [December 2], you light a certain amount of candles, so like the first night, you have the first candle,” said Sahar.

They light the candles on a menorah which can hold eight candles, one for each night. Afterward, her family does several activities.

“You light them [the candles] and then sing a bunch of songs, well my family does … we eat all the food. There’s no specific like restrictions besides like being kosher, but you don’t have to be,” said Sahar.

She enjoys a variety of foods.

“We have, basically jelly-filled doughnuts, which is a fun one, we have the potato pancakes … but every family does it a little differently,” said Sahar.

Some students have festive plans that aren’t associated with a religion. Sarah Mackey will be traveling to Europe over winter break.

“My mom lives in Switzerland currently and the rest of my family is moving there next year, so we’re going over there for Christmas and we’re going to go skiing,” said Mackey.

Before leaving though, she will be participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange, in which members of her friend group are secretly and randomly assigned a gift giver who will buy them a gift.

“Secret Santa is something that I’ve done with my friends since middle school,” said Mackey.

Her system has developed over time, and now, she uses some help from technology.

“We use this website called DrawNames … it assigns you a random name so that there’s no chance of you finding out, by accidentally seeing someone else’s,” said Mackey. “You can upload a wishlist, so people can get you something that they know you’ll like.”

But for now, there are still a few problems they haven’t worked out in the system.

“We haven’t really figured out a good system as to how to keep it secret to the point that you’re exchanging the presents and you don’t know who it’s from, because everyone has their distinct way of wrapping presents,” said Mackey.

For Davis, her gift exchange is for her family.  

“My dad takes us … to Target and we go shopping for each other every year,” said Davis.

Hailey Maxwell has found a way to mesh multiple holidays.

“My mom is Jewish and my dad is Christian, so we celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. Oftentimes, because they’re the same time of year, they mix,” said Maxwell.

This merging on holidays includes decorations.

“For example, we have an advent calendar, which is one of those house[s] and it has little doors in it for each day that you open,” said Maxwell. “In that, you have gelt, which is like Jewish chocolate coins. They’re a Hanukkah thing, but they’re in our advent calendar, which is a Christian thing, so they kind of mix.”

Another decoration is handmade.

“When I was little, I fake stain glass painted a dreidel ornament that hangs on our Christmas tree,” said Maxwell.

Overall, Maxwell enjoys the fact that this creates a unique holiday experience for her and her family.

“I think it’s kind of fun,” said Maxwell. “It’s different. I have a slightly different Christmas and Hanukkah experience from people that celebrate one or the other. It’s not necessarily better, it’s not worse, it’s just different. And I like that.”

About the Writer
Hope Williams, Staff writer

Hope Williams is a senior staff writer. When she's not churning out articles, you can find her playing with her cats or going on a hike. This is her second year on the staff.

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