Welcome to the third episode! In honor of winter break, which officially just started for UNC-CH, we’ve got a set of holiday stories for you this time around.
This episode has four parts:
Part 1: Gary Bolick on a Thanksgiving in France
Part 2: Anna Spickard on her family’s Thanksgiving tradition
Part 3: Jane Mayo on a scary Santa
Part 4: Alexis Rabin on celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah
Thanks to Ryan Bolick, Derek Mayo, Anna Spickard, and Lydia Min for working on this episode.
Intro and outro music: Cheese Steak, by Raleigh Moncrief
In between segments: Christmas Eve At Midnight (Small Town Square), by Lee Rosevere
Transcript available after the break.
Hi everybody, welcome to another episode of the Carolina Digital Story Lab podcast. This time around we’ve got some holiday stories to keep you company during your winter break travels.
First up: Gary Bolick remembers a Thanksgiving spent in France.
Next, Anna Spickard tells about her family’s Thanksgiving tradition.
Then, Jane Mayo shares the terror that was Santa one year.
And finally, Alexis Rabin talks about celebrating both Christmas and Hannukah in her family.
Enjoy the show!
I’m Gary Bolick. Ryan Bolick who is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, who is my son, has asked me to do this interview tonight concerning my experience, my first Thanksgiving, actually the only Thanksgiving I spent in France. The reason why it was interesting—I was, had just graduated from high school, I was a foreign exchange student through the American Field Services program. It was the first time I was away from home. I was just beginning to get comfortable with the language, my friends, the family I lived with, and it was quite a shock when Thanksgiving rolled around because no one in France knew at all what I was talking about. And so it was sort of pushing back at the isolation and the loneliness that I first felt when I arrived in France. But try as I may, I could not explain exactly what this, why this holiday was so important. Cause as I child I’d loved it probably more than Christmas because it was the only day out of the year where the entire family got together simply because they wanted to be together, enjoy a good meal, and recount why they felt so lucky. So we went to school that day, the only fortunate thing that year was it landed on a Wednesday, in France, and when you’re in Lisses you have half a day off. And so I went and took myself out to lunch and ended up at a café. It was raining, and after lunch I ordered myself a cup of tea. I sat and watched a rat play with some garbage in the gutter. Just to accentuate in a way the loneliness and the sadness that I felt knowing that my family was sitting around the table enjoying a huge Thanksgiving dinner. But that also helped me grow. Because it then expanded my horizons and after that day I guess I became more of a Francophile than I was before. I said well OK, I’m committed to this year, I won’t be going back home until next summer. And so in a lot of ways it was my most memorable Thanksgiving because I didn’t actually get to celebrate it. But then it drove me closer and increased the bond I had with the French family that I was living with. So I’ll always remember it for, sort of in a bittersweet way. And now as a middle-aged man, look back on it, it was quite a learning experience. So, I hope this has been a nice little chat with everyone, and that was my Thanksgiving, my first Thanksgiving, and really my only Thanksgiving spent away from America. It taught me quite a bit about myself, as well as the country. I realize it’s probably the single finest celebration we have in this country because it is something that we do simply to give thanks for the people we love, and the great country that we do live in.
I come from a family with many holiday traditions. We always loved to be together over the holidays, whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, or summer break. My favorite time of year is Thanksgiving. Every year my entire mom’s side of the family travels to Charleston, South Carolina where we spend a few days together celebrating the holiday. We usually arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday and get settled in before the festivities on Thursday. We get up early Thursday morning and run the Turkey Trot through downtown Charleston, and then have a big Thanksgiving feast on Thursday afternoon. Friday and Saturday are filled with lounging on the couch and watching football and sometimes even going outside to the field to play football ourselves. My favorite tradition started a few years ago. My uncle was on a walk throughout the city when he started noticing lots of interesting objects and landmarks. He began to make a list and when he came back to the house he announced that we were going to have a big family scavenger hunt. He split the family up into two teams and we piled into cars with a camera and our competitive spirits. Our family is really competitive so we were all excited about the prospect of winning the scavenger hunt. The prize was, well, our pride, and we got to have a big dessert that night if we won. So the first year I was on a team with my grandmother, who’s the most competitive of all. Even though she’s 80 years old, she’s very young in spirit and wanted to win. We drove around with a full car trying to find all of the different landmarks and interesting things that were on our list. Some of them were obscure, but that didn’t stop us. Even little Charles, who was only 6 years old at the time, helped out. He spotted something up on a balcony that none of us had noticed. We would jump out of the car, take a picture, hop back in and drive around the narrow streets hoping not to get in a wreck. That year my car arrived back at the house first. We uploaded the pictures up on the computer and were ready to prove our victory when the other team arrived. My uncle was the mediator and sure enough he declared my team victorious. We gloated all day and my grandmother was the proudest of all. The next year was the same, we had different teams but the same exciting scavenger hunt full of competition. Each year for about five years now we’ve done this scavenger hunt and it’s always so much fun. Mimi was always the most excited about it. She’d loved to win but was always loving and embraced the other team whether victory or not. A couple years ago Mimi passed away. Thanksgiving just isn’t the same without her. After she died I was afraid that our traditions would slowly die. She was the matriarch, the one who kept the family together and cared the most about all of our traditions. However, since her death our traditions including the scavenger hunt have been maintained stronger than ever. I think it’s because we feel like we’re honoring her memory as we take part in all of the things that she loved the most. This year I’m going back to Charleston with my whole family where I’m sure we’ll do the Turkey Trot and the scavenger hunt and everything as usual. There will be a missing presence with her not there but we all gather together and remember all of the fun times we had with her and we know that she is now in a better place. Thanksgiving is the most meaningful time of year for me and my family and I have already so many memories that I’ll never forget and there’s many more to come.
My grandfather lived a mile down the road from us and he was the meanest man I’ve ever known. He was really, really mean and I remember being absolutely terrified my whole life. So one Christmas, coming from a big family Christmas was not that, it was exciting because there was always a present and stuff but it was not that big of a deal. One year they took the smallest kids in the family and they lined us up at the picture window starting with the smallest to the tallest and had us stand there. And eventually out of the barn came Santa in this beautiful red velvet suit. He was waving this big bell and he was saying Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas. And I can remember being really excited. I can remember tapping on the glass with my hands, and you know talking with my siblings who were next to me cause it, Santa was coming to our house, it was a really big deal. And he’s taking his time, he’s getting closer and closer and closer and then all of a sudden he completely disappears. He’s nowhere to be seen. And then I hear this awful stream of obscenities. What’d happened was, Santa had fallen into the window well that was right beneath the picture window. It was a big hole in the ground with a metal encasing. (laughter) And he’d hurt himself, he’d fallen in there so he was cussing and yelling. He climbs out of the window well and he comes into the house and he’s got now dirt on his suit and his beard is kind of askew, and he’s still really cursing and here are all of these small children and I look at him and I realize all of a sudden that Santa is my grandfather. (laughter) And I was terrified. I spent years scared to death of Santa Clause cause I thought Santa really was my grandfather.
My name is Alexis Rabin and I’m a senior at the University of North Carolina. I’m from Melbourne, New Jersey, and I’ve grown up my entire life with a father who’s Jewish and a mother who’s Catholic. Every year since I was little, my parents, my brother, and I, we all, we always celebrated both Hanukkah and Christmas. It’s always been a lot of fun and some of my fondest memories involve this time of year. So every year my mom takes Christmas very seriously. It’s probably one of her favorite holidays. So every year she has a particular theme to the Christmas tree. One year it’s been fashion, so we had shoe ornaments, purses ornaments, and then another year it’s been under the sea so we’ve had fish and mermaids and coral reefs type of ornaments. One year it was also colors so we had an entire blue tree or a purple tree. But I have to say one of my favorite trees that my mom did was a Hanukkah tree, which my family liked to joke, we called it a Hanukkah bush because there is no such thing as a Hanukkah tree in the Jewish culture. So basically this tree had ornaments that were menorahs, candles, dreidels, gelt, and basically the menorah is the candle holder for the eight days of Hanukkah and the dreidel is basically a top that children play with at Hanukkah and it’s kind of like a gamble using gelt and gelt is usually this chocolate that’s covered in gold aluminum foil and people play the game and bet how much money, how much gelt they want to win or lose. So we did the tree because Hanukkah and Christmas fell on the same time. So one of the eight days of Hanukkah coincided with Christmas Eve or Christmas day one, or the other. And it was a lot of fun to decorate with my parents and my brother because it integrated both the cultures that my brother and I have grown up with. And when I was extremely little in elementary school there weren’t many other Jewish students in our class so my brother and I actually did a presentation about Hanukkah and the story of Hanukkah and why we light the candle for eight days and seven nights. Why oil is so important and why you eat potato latkes which are basically fried potatoes. And even now in my twenties, you know trying to celebrate this holiday, both holidays, I’ve tried to make my own food, I’ve tried to make my own holiday mixture. Granted, my potato latkes turned out to be hash browns, which isn’t how they’re supposed to be, but that’s ok. You know as I grow older I hope that one day I can incorporate both cultures into the family that I have one day because I think it really means a lot that I celebrate both holidays and that I’m very aware of the other religions that are in my life. I hope one day my children will be able to appreciate the Hanukkah tradition and the Christmas tradition just as I have my entire life.
All right, that’s our show for this time. Thanks to Ryan Bolick, Derek Mayo, Anna Spickard, and Lydia Min for working on this episode.
If you have an idea for a future episode theme, or want to contribute your own story—and you know you do—get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy storytelling!