Sea Mar AmeriCorps Team Holiday Traditions

The Holidays mean something different for everyone. Whether its that annual trip, shopping for gifts, the impeding new year’s resolutions, or just as simple as spending time with family – we all have something to share. Each one of our AmeriCorps members here at Sea Mar Community Health Centers will be celebrating in our own way this season. Here are a few blurbs from the AmeriCorps members themselves.


~Elizabeth Reed, Marysville Medical Patient Navigator

Starting the week or two before Christmas I kick everybody out of my kitchen and bake, bake, BAKE! I make 12 different things of yumminess (for the 12 days of Christmas) because I like to give these out as part of people’s gifts while enjoying them at home as well  I already put up our Christmas lights with my Dad’s supervision. Getting the Christmas tree is a Dad/daughter thing and we’ll go pick out a real one! We watch Christmas movies all season long such as Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, the Santa Claus, the Little Drummer Boy, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We also listen to Christmas music starting after Thanksgiving, but it has to be the classics like Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Nat King Cole. Christmas Eve my parents and I go to a late evening Mass and look at Christmas lights on the way home. I write a letter to Santa Claus as soon as I get home and go to sleep! Christmas morning we wake up, open presents, eat breakfast, relax and then go over to family’s house to celebrate the day!

~Zhanna Grigoryan, Seattle Cannon House Assisted Living Facility Patient Navigator

No one Christmas is ever the same in my family. One year we may stay in by ourselves (just the four of us), another we will go to a friend’s house for a big Armenian dinner, or sometimes even go out to a restaurant. The one thing that is a constant in our tradition is that we are together on Christmas every year.”

Zhanna Grigoryan
Picture (left to right): My mom, sister, dad, and me..

~Mike Tobias, Tacoma AmeriCorps*VISTA

As for my family, we celebrate on Christmas Eve. We all get together and we all eat chili together. Each family brings their own recipe, and without trying to brag too much, my vegan chili is always a huge hit (despite my being the only vegetarian in the family). After filling up on chili, cornbread, and Christmas cookies, my Grandpa, a retired minister, reads the Christmas story from his old leather-bound Bible. Then we exchange gifts with one another based on names pulled out of a hat at Thanksgiving. They’re usually pretty simple gifts, but always wonderful. Then on Christmas morning with just the immediate family, we wake up to fresh-made cinnamon rolls and open stockings.

~Irina Ivannicova, Sea Mar Volunteer Coordinator

I am always excited for December because it’s the start of winter and winter means holiday/seasonal activities! Looking at holiday lights with my friends, decorating Christmas cards and sampling peppermint flavored treats are among my favorite activities.

~Alison White, Sea Mar Childhood Wellness Coordinator

I was raised Jewish, which is not all that unusual in West Los Angeles. Like many other Jewish families, my family had a Christmas Day tradition. We would buy a ridiculous amount of tamales from the local restaurant, Taqueria Sanchez. We would spend a good portion of the morning gorging ourselves on these tamales until we were sick. Then we would head to the movies and see one of the Christmas Day releases. These have become some of my favorite family memories!

~Christine Dodson, Tacoma AmeriCorps*VISTA

My mother’s mother was a nun, yes a Sister of St. Casmier nun, but when her brother died of spinal meningitis in the 1920’s and the church refused his body’s entry for the funeral my great-grandmother insisted on a papal blessing to release my grandmother from her vows.  Needless to say, we were very Catholic!  So, the Christmas holiday involved more than lights, gifts, and entertaining – there were also church and parochial school functions to attend.

Every Christmas Eve, my sister and I were allowed to open one gift before bed (which was always new pajamas so the pictures in the morning would be nice).  On Christmas morning, though, my mother’s first order of business was church, despite Santa’s visit the night before; so my sister and I would wake up and get dressed for church, close our eyes to go down the stairs and out the front door (past Christmas!!) and out to mass.  After church we had to go back into our PJs and come down the stairs as if we had just awoken.  I still laugh looking at the pictures and knowing that we had already been awake for about two hours!

~Aldeir Sotelo, Bellevue Medical Patient Navigator

Recently, for the past 3 years, my family has been gathering around Christmas time since that’s when most of my close family members have time off from work. We invite my niece, nephew, and their father to come over so that they can feel like they have a supportive family and so that they don’t think that their only family is just their father. My cousin, their mother, passed away about 4 years ago after having a cerebral aneurysm. Since my niece was only 1 at the time and, my nephew was only 6, my mother thought that it would be a good idea to be as supportive to them as possible. In a way, I guess this could be almost be called a holiday tradition although, it’s just a result of the availability of my family members during the holiday season. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go to my hometown this time around but, hopefully I’ll be able to go at some point in the spring to visit them.

~Jonathan Paniagua, Burien Medical Patient Navigator

What I look forward to most during Christmastime is the entire family (in WA) getting together at my Aunt’s place on Christmas Eve to eat dinner which is usually made up of tamales, posole, and pumpkin pies (because my sister lives in DC and doesn’t come for Thanksgiving so we only get her famous pumpkin pies during Christmas). Throughout the day, we watch Christmas movies (family favorite is Elf), play with the kids (there’s so many), go sledding, and call each other only by middle name! At midnight, we open our presents, but the kids usually aren’t very patient so we let them open one present 30 min beforehand. Christmas day is usually a recovery day where we eat leftovers and continue to watch Christmas movies.

~Janni Sun, International Community Health Services Patient Navigator

The Sun Family has never traditionally celebrated Christmas. When I was a kid, we only got a tree if my sister and I begged and pleaded for two weeks straight first. My mom is awful at baking. If we wanted presents wrapped, we would have to do it ourselves. Dad usually gave us cash a week ahead of time; now, he just gives a check some time between the months of November and February. However, our little hometown on the edge of Spokane is the definition of upper middle-class suburbia. So even though our house would have the bare minimum of Christmas lights, our neighbors got into the full swing of things, with mechanical light up reindeer and twinkly lights. So the first Christmas that we received a plate of Christmas cookies from our neighbors, my parents were at a loss for how to reciprocate. We are Chinese, so everything, especially food, must be remembered and repaid in full. So my parents decided that the whole family would get up early on Christmas morning, heat up a pot of oil, and make spring rolls for our neighbors. It started with our immediate neighbors, then my kindergarten year, we added the families in our carpools, to “repay” them for the favor they were doing us. I ended up going to different school the next year, but every Christmas morning, I would show up to my former carpool buddy’s’ house bundled up in my snow gear with a plate of fresh, hot spring rolls. That would be the only time a year I had seen him, but now, we’re good friends again. I think that’s all due to the fact that every year, I would show up to his house bearing spring rolls, and he would drop off a bag of homemade caramelized popcorn. We live in different cities now, but last Christmas morning, he texted me, saying, “My dad is wondering how you are going to keep the spring rolls crisp all the way to Boise.


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