No Bah Humbug Here

Special family holiday traditions
No Bah Humbug Here

The holidays seem to go hand in hand with treasured traditions. Experts say that observing traditions may actually improve mental health because humans are naturally social and crave connection, so gatherings and traditions that bring family and friends together can inspire a sense of rejuvenation (3 Ways Holiday Traditions Can Improve Mental Health 2023). A few Lancaster High School staff members shared their traditions with Eye of the Gale.

English teacher Laura Specht said that every year on Christmas morning, she makes a traditional big family breakfast and her father, sister, brother and all of their spouses gather at her house to be together. 

Laura Specht’s family on Christmas. Photo courtesy of Specht.

“We open gifts, and then I make a German breakfast food called potato sausage.  I also scramble a bunch of fresh eggs from my chickens.  Then, that night, the rest of my family comes over.  We play games and eat tons of food.  We have a white elephant gift exchange and try to get each other the silliest gifts possible,” stated Specht. 

UNC Health clinical psychologist Crystal Schiller, PhD. said that traditions cause a physical change in the brain.

Humans have survived for a long time in tribes and there are rituals associated with how those work. Connecting with loved ones sparks that chemical reaction in the brain that has positive effects on mood and has shown to be important for mental health” (3 Ways Holiday Traditions Can Improve Mental Health 2023).

Jennifer Blanchard a marketing teacher here at Lancaster stated that her family starts the Christmas traditions with a church service and out to a fancy family dinner then to drive around for some Christmas light scenery and home for some cookies. They also do a remarkable tradition of launching a Chinese paper lantern in honor of their deceased father.

“Our night ends with a tradition of driving around for some Christmas lights, cookies and maybe a board game or two and a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and finally we launch a Chinese paper lantern in honor of our deceased father,” she said. 

Faith Spires family Christmas photo.

Geometry teacher Faith Spires said that she comes from a big Italian family and one tradition they have every year is a Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve.  In an article published by Carnegie Museum of Natural History, this tradition stems from 20th-century Italian-American immigrants who—homesick for the land they left behind—combined classic Italian dishes with seafood. The sea was a representation of the connection between their home country and the new one (Dominick, 2020).

“We prepare seven types of fish.  We have also prepared fancy dishes like Cioppino, a fish stew with shrimp, clams, and cod, Oysters Rockefeller, and seared scallops, or we have taken the easy route for others with frozen calamari or a tin of sardines,” she said.  

Drama Director Ryan Metzger said his family tradition begins the night before Christmas.

Ryan Metzger family Christmas photo.

“Our family makes pizza for Christmas Eve, then we head to midnight mass, and then take the long road home to look at the lights. 

Christmas morning, my kids come downstairs in their matching jammies and can open Santa’s presents. Later, we make a full Christmas dinner.  Once we’ve eaten, we open family presents,” he stated. 

Not all families spend hours honoring long standing holiday traditions every year.  In fact, for some families, a quick gathering is best.  LHS English teacher Kelli Marvin said a specific time schedule is important for her mental health.

“Our tradition is usually to come at 1:00, eat at 2:00, and leave at 3:00. I have a two-hour family limit,” she said.  


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