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Favorite Holiday Traditions From ANW Staff & Resident Artists


By A Noise Within
December 15, 2020

To get us in a festive mood, some of our staff and Resident Artists have shared their favorite holiday traditions with their families and friends (including a few that are tailored to this year’s… special circumstances). Who knows? You may find traditions that you also share, or brand new ones that you can try with your loved ones!

Patti Anne Miller, Director of Development

My mom and I make homemade candy (pralines, chocolate turtles, and coconut balls) and give a tin to each of our neighbors! So fun to cook and wrap gifts and pass them out to people we have known for so long. ?

Paul Ramirez, Marketing Intern

Each year my family goes on a scavenger hunt to find a new addition to add to our nutcracker collection. This tradition started by my younger sister is a fairly recent one that she has spearheaded. Nutcrackers have always been a Christmas decor staple for my family, yet one year my sister decided that we needed to curate an actual assortment of nutcrackers that we could proudly display for guests. This year our newest addition is a NASA inspired astronaut complete with helmet and American flag. 

A nutcracker in a white astronaut suit stands in front of a blue background. The nutcracker holds an American flag in one hand and on the other hand holds a narrow white and silver space ship with three fins.

Erika Soto, Resident Artist

We have FOUR Traditions!

1. We pick a dress theme every year. For example: Pijama Christmas or Ugly Sweater Christmas. This year is Flannel Christmas!

2. We do a whole family Secret Santa so everyone is able to have gifts and no one is stretched too thin. 
3. We play the White Elephant game — the catch being that the gifts have to be weird or funny ?
4. Finally, we have an uncle who gives all the nieces and nephews matching gifts. He says it’s so that we know he loves us all the same and to always stay united and #VenegasStrong ?


Cyndee Naideau, Development Associate

On Christmas Eve we make a fire in our woodstove and gather around our small television to watch at least 5 Christmas episodes of The Simpsons. My brother and mother both fall asleep on the floor close to the fire and my other brother and father fall asleep on our couch, which leaves me to watch the same 5 episodes… alone… every… year.

Zach Davidson, Institutional Giving Manager

Don’t have too many holiday traditions, but the first ones that come to mind are…

  • Christmas Day, movie & Chinese food (#VeryJewish)
  • Driving around town with my wife to look at Christmas lights
  • Annual screening of “Love, Actually,” which I could probably recite word-for-word at this point

Alan Blumenfeld, Resident Artist

Our family is an intercultural household where we celebrate the Holidays from our Jewish and Christian traditions.

We call this Solstice time of year, Weinukah… a word given to us by a German refugee from WWII and a family friend. It means Christmas and Hanukkah as a combined holiday. You can see from the attached photo… our holiday wreath, decorated with Jewish stars and snowflakes. And our Dreidel windsock. And of course our perennial Peace Sign, appropriate for all times.
In non-COVID times, we have a holiday party serving Latkes with sour cream, apple sauce and salsa (a California adaptation) and Swedish Rice pudding in honor of my wife’s family’s heritage. A true carbo load.  Folks bring their own fry pans and menorahs and fry to their heart’s—and stomach’s—content. When spooning the rice pudding, each person is asked to make up and recite a simple poem, e.g. “In the candles flames, I see the happy faces of family.” Then we light the menorahs and advent candles, Swedish Christmas candles and the kids—and some adults—play dreidel with pennies provided by us for the gambling.  The great strength of our stew pot culture, celebrating all traditions makes us stronger.

Region 1 First Annual Christmas Movie Tournament 2020 featuring brackets of Christmas movies pitted against each other. Last Holiday versus The Family Stone. While You Were Sleeping versus The Holiday. Santa Claus 1 versus Santa Claus 3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town versus Rudolph. Grinch (animated) versus Angela’s Christmas. Polar Express versus Nativity Story. Home Alone versus A Christmas Story. Charlie Brown Christmas versus Annabelle’s Wish.Bridgette Ramirez, Senior Editorial & Marketing Coordinator

My mom’s side of the family plays a bunch of games. We’ll pass around unmarked gift boxes like hot potato, and whoever it lands on opens the box to reveal a ridiculous hat, mask, wig, etc. that they have to wear. I’ll never forget seeing my grandma in a Hannah Montana wig. My dad’s sister’s birthday is on Christmas Eve, so we usually go over to her house to make her a birthday breakfast with French toast, bacon, and all the classics.  (This year, dad is shipping her French toast cereal… don’t spoil the surprise!)

Obviously this year requires social distancing, but we’ve still found fun things to do. My cousins and I arranged a Christmas Movie March Madness game, with us voting on a round of brackets every week leading up to the best Christmas movie according to our family. It’s a real nail biter so far!

Susan Angelo, Resident Artist

As a child, Christmas Eve was the yearly big celebration at my Italian grandmother’s house, which was connected to the bar she owned and ran (Angelo’s Pine Room!)… It was a huge space to run around in; pool table; juke box; and a tradition of eating spaghetti and fried oysters.  I had a lot of first cousins, and we would dance and sing and each get to open one present that night.  The anticipation as so exciting. So this year… this very odd year…. for the first time in decades, all the cousins are getting together again, via zoom!  We won’t run around the pool table, but we will certainly recall those good memories.  As I continue to look for the gift in this difficult time,  reuniting with cousins is one! Happy Holidays!

Don’t know if you want photos, but here is one of me with Santa.  You can see me already questioning authority…
Susan Angelo as an infant in a pink jacket and beanie stares at Santa Clause with a comically disturbed look on her face as he holds her.

Deborah Strang, Subscriber Services Manager & Resident Artist

For almost 25 years, my holiday tradition (with one exception when I left town for a wedding) has been performing at A Noise Within. Over the years, we’ve done Christmas readings (I adapted and directed a reading of The Haunted Man by Charles Dickens), an annual Holiday Tea, A Wilde Holiday (Oscar Wilde stories), Carrolling (Lewis Carol stories), Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (with a Christmas Tree), Noises Off (with a Christmas Tree), and 3 different adaptations of A Christmas Carol. The A Noise Within family has been my tradition. This year I plan to curl up in my cozy sweats with a bowl of soup and my husband and finally binge episodes of Homeland.

Trisha Miller, Resident Artist

This is not a childhood holiday tradition, but one my partner Tom and I have embraced since becoming parents, as a way to start our own little family tradition while connecting with our history. We grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, home to a large Scandanavian population. My family’s roots are in Norway, and our new tradition is baking Norweigan krumkake cookies during the holidays. They are similar to Italian pizzelle cookies–you pour a batter into a thin, embossed waffle iron—but krumkake cookies are then rolled around a wooden cone. They are delicious and simple, flavored with vanilla and cardamom, and something the three of us enjoy making and eating together. 

A mini Norway flag, which is red with a navy blue cross outlined with white, stands on a wood table next to a plate of beige krumkake cookies decorated with intricate hearts and rolled into cones.

Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx, Director of Cultural Programming

When there’s not a global pandemic, I spend Christmas with A LOT of family.

My parents, sister and I usually go a relative’s house (where family from all over are packed into one living room), and the counter is lined with beef and chicken tamales (YUM), and sometimes even chili con carne. 

Oh, and there’s ALWAYS pan dulce and my Nana’s famous walnut fudge. 

When I was a kid, we would all gather at my grandparents’ house for the holidays. The living room would be filled with folding tables and folding chairs to accommodate the huge, annual family dinner. There seemed to be a different tray of walnut fudge on every surface… What I remember most though, was the long fireplace mantle with a fuzzy red stocking hanging down for each one of us grandchildren—there were a LOT of us. Each stocking hung above a large metal fireplace gate with an ornate “M” welded onto it… for “Muñoz.”

We always opened presents on Christmas Eve. The absolute greatest, greatest, GREATEST gift I ever received was a Nintendo 64! Super Smash Bros? Donkey Kong 64?? The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time??? YES. PLEASE!!!

A dusty Nintendo 64 console with three used games: Donkey Kong, Super Mario, and The Legend of Zelda.

After presents, all the folding tables and chairs would be put away for next year, clearing the large, brown, carpeted living room for the kids to roll out our sleeping bags for the night—a sea of brightly colored nylon reserved for sleepovers and Christmas Eve.

This year is very different. 

All my grandparents have passed. Others are no longer with us. The rest of our family will be in their separate corners of the coast. It’s just four of us—Mom, Dad, and sister.

Gifts are anything that can be safely shipped to our front door and wiped down with Clorox.

Every year when I ask my Dad what he wants for Christmas and he says: “Peace on Earth,” and I roll my eyes and laugh. But this year I hear him.  

Then he always adds: “And socks.” – so not much has changed, I guess.

Wishing you all a very special holiday. And Peace on Earth. ? 

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