UCF students celebrate holidays with off the beaten path traditions
Some people open gifts on Christmas Eve and wear matching pajamas, some prepare their own Christmas Day breakfast buffets and some exchange cow-related gifts with family.
Holiday traditions are various and plenty among different families and cultures, and with a diverse student population here at UCF, these traditions don't just stop at family get-togethers and Secret Santa exchanges. Whether they're continuing unique family traditions or creating new ones, many Knights are finding creative and unique ways to celebrate the holiday season.
Carlos Arana, a master's student studying criminal justice, lived in Colombia until he was 12 and celebrated Day of the Little Candles with his family and neighbors.
Day of the Little Candles, or Little Candles' Day, is a commonly observed holiday tradition in Colombia that is celebrated on Dec. 7, the eve of the Immaculate Conception. People place candles and lanterns all over their windows, porches, balconies, streets and parks to honor the Virgin Mary and her immaculate conception, and the night marks the unofficial start of the Christmas season in Colombia.
"I guess Thanksgiving is when Americans say the holidays are coming," Arana said. "It's [Little Candles' Day] pretty much the start of the holidays … like, 'Wow, Christmas is here.'"
When the holiday is celebrated in Colombia, Arana said that teenagers would get into the spirit of the night and do things like getting candles and putting the melted wax on their hands to create wax handprints.
"[My favorite part of it is] walking around the neighborhood with friends and seeing how it is all lit up and such and doing stupid stuff like that," Arana said.
Although Arana and his family have since left Colombia, he said they still carry on the holiday tradition in the States, but on a smaller scale.
"It's smaller, like just at our house or so … we turn [on] some candles … we don't go big like we did in Colombia with fireworks and such," Arana said.
For Kai Morris, a junior biomedical sciences major, exchanging cow-related gifts make up one of her family's most interesting holiday traditions.
"It started when we got my grandma this cow cookie jar and she loved it so much [that] the next year she got us all the hideously scary cow statues, and then it just became this game of out-cowing my grandma," Morris said. "She still has no idea that we're trying to outdo her gifts [though], she just thinks we all enjoy cows."
Morris said the tradition started 12 years ago and became a joke between the women in the family, but her family didn't stop at cow-related gifts. After her brother made a comment five years ago about being glad he wasn't one of the women getting cow gifts, they decided to turn the joke back on him.
"That's when the guys started getting awful moose gifts, mostly this popcorn mix called moose droppings and sweaters with moose on them," she said.
Morris said she finds her family's cow- and moose-themed gifts here and there at a slew of places she happens across, whether it's a thrift store, garage sale or Old Time Pottery type of place. And as for her grandmother's gift this year?
"I got her one of those Giant Microbes and it's mad cow disease," she said. "She's a germaphobe, so that makes it better."