For me, winter break has always been a great time spent with family and friends. This occurs naturally because of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays that occur over this break. These holidays are some of my favorite because they are a time of happiness, joy, and peace.
Christmas is filled with many traditions in my family. On Christmas Eve, my family attends mass at our parish, St. Pius X Church. At this mass, there is a reenactment of the nativity for children. I always enjoy seeing this play because when I was in middle school and high school I played many different roles and it is a great pastime for me. I love to see that it is still a part of the tradition of the Church.
After mass, my family goes to my paternal grandmother’s house to have dinner and exchange gifts with my father’s side of the family. Our dinner includes some traditional Polish food like pierogies and pickled herring. Prior to dinner, we participate in the Polish tradition of the breaking of the oplatek (Christmas wafer). Each family member is given a piece of the oplatek and goes around the table wishing everyone good health, joy, and happiness for the upcoming year while sharing a piece of the wafer. It is tradition that this breaking of the oplatek begins with my grandmother and follows in a sequential order based on age. This is a great way for my family to reconnect with everyone and spend some time together.
On Christmas Day, we spend the whole day at my house and my mother’s family comes for dinner. The day begins with a gift exchange between my immediate family and presents from Santa Claus. It has become a new tradition that my sister and I assist our mother with making hors d’oeuvres for the day, as well as baking desserts for after dinner. Each year, my mother makes lasagna in order to touch on our Italian roots. She is quite famous for her lasagna and each year I think it gets better and better. It is wonderful to see my family on Christmas Day as my cousins are beginning to grow their families with marriages and children and this is a great time to see all the growth that has happened in the past year.
New Year’s has always been a fun holiday for me because it is a time to celebrate the approaching year as well as to reflect on the previous year. In 2014, I had the privilege to graduate from college, enter graduate school, and begin my adult life. To celebrate this New Year’s Eve, I traveled to Boston, MA with some of my best friends from high school. This was great because we haven’t been able to spend this much time with one another since before entering college and it allowed for a truly memorable experience. Whether it was walking the streets of the North End, grabbing lunch in Quincy Market, or stopping at the outlets for some shopping, it was a wonderful start to the year.
These holidays were the highlights of my break and I now feel rested and excited to return to Rochester for another semester in the TEAM program!
– Courtney Astemborski ’15 (MS)