Ahwatukee Foothills News staff members travel down memory lane to share what the holidays mean to us

Mixed-faith family loves being together

My favorite part of the holiday season is being with my whole family. My family is one of those lucky ones that get to celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. My sister’s family and brother are Jewish and my dad is Catholic and my family just believes. We always get a real Christmas tree every year which makes the whole house smell good; it’s like we went to the forest and cut it down. My dad takes both of my boys and gets the biggest tree in the lot, at least 8 feet high. My boys and I usually decorate it and make it pretty for my dad. This is how I know the holidays are here. It doesn’t matter how old we get, it’s tradition.

Patricia Dixie

National/key advertising sales

Mexican tradition

It isn’t the holidays inside the Ochoa house until my family starts making tamales. The morning of Christmas Eve, my immediate family gather around the kitchen table to start the preparations of making about 12 dozen tamales. It seems like a large number to cook for only seven people, but being that it takes a full day to make them, we tend to go all out. My mom and sister prepare the meat, while my dad is outside making the masa blasting Mexican music for the entire neighborhood to hear. Throughout the day there’s a lot of shouting, bickering and laughter that fills the house, and right around midnight we sit down as a family to eat. It’s the perfect holiday tradition.

Daniel Ochoa


The little one’s face

We don’t have any immediate family in Arizona so Christmas Day is all about the three of us.

We don’t go anywhere or need to do anything but spend the entire morning (very early morning,) afternoon and evening sharing just about every minute together while wearing our pajamas nearly all day.

The egg nog pancakes for breakfast, the pouring of the stockings out on to the kitchen table, the sheer excitement in my daughter’s voice and gleam in her eyes while stealing glances with my wife, knowing our little one is about as happy as she can possibly be is so special.

Christmas means so many things, but most of all it is about just being together.

Jason P. Skoda

Sports reporter

NERF war on Christmas

My favorite Christmas tradition that my family has is our yearly NERF gun fight. Every year my parents give my brother and me small NERF guns in our stockings and subsequently we battle throughout the day. In recent years my sister-in-law and cousins have enlisted into this one-day war. No matter how old we get, it’s always fun to get a toy to play with on Christmas morning.

David Jolkovski


Christmas at the beach

My favorite part of the Christmas holiday is being on vacation and spending it with family in Santa Barbara. Our Christmas Day tradition is opening gifts in the morning, homemade toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch and going to a movie in the afternoon. Then if we have time we go for a walk on the pier. Great family time!

Karen Mays

Advertising sales associate

It’s just not Christmas without a 6-foot sub

Every year for as long as I can remember, my whole family has gone over to my grandma’s house on Christmas Eve. For dinner we forego the traditional holiday fare for something, in my opinion, much better. A 6-foot sub, which takes up the entire length of my grandma’s kitchen table. Simultaneously simple and extraordinary, I can’t imagine Christmas without it.

Emily Whitmore

Assistant managing editor

Stuffing stockings

My family has a tradition of stuffing each other’s stockings. We all bring our empty stockings to Christmas dinner and take turns putting small gifts in each one. It’s a fun way to give something small to every member of our large family and to do it anonymously.

Allison Hurtado


Explain a favorite holiday memory?

Sneaking a peek

Falling asleep on Christmas Eve is one of the hardest things to do as a child. I was about 7 and I awoke before the sun had come up on Christmas Day and I tip-toed out to the tree to see if Santa had left me a dolly. I looked around the tree, no dolly. As I turned around to go back to bed, disappointed, there she was, a beautiful little blonde-headed dolly. I was so excited. I picked her up, gave her a squeeze and put her back down, as no one would be the wiser.

Elaine Cota

Classified sales specialist

Let it snow

One of my favorite holiday memories is when I asked my children what they would like for Christmas one year.

My oldest daughter, who was 8 years old at the time, said, “All I want is snow!” Being that we live in Arizona, I knew this was a pretty tall order. She had only seen snow one other time when she was 4 years old.

I said, “Well I’m not sure if Santa can bring snow, sweetie. Why don’t you think of something else just in case he can’t bring snow.”

She said, “Nope, snow is all I want.”

Well I thought long and hard about what I could do. I ended up getting poly-fill from the fabric store, the kind that you use to fill pillows, only this kind had a slight sparkle to it and was super fine and soft. On Christmas Eve I created footprints leading from the front door to the Christmas tree and sprinkled it around the gifts under the tree from Santa. She awoke up Christmas morning thrilled to find the snowy footprints and said, “See, I knew he could do it!” Then she asked, “How did he get in the house?”

I said, “He’s magic!”

Laura Meehan

Advertising sales associate

Homemade ornaments equals 2 Christmas trees

I grew up with a lot of holiday traditions, but one of my favorites was that every year in elementary school we all created our own homemade Christmas ornaments and brought them home on the last day of school before the long holiday break. Because of that, my parents decided to put up two different Christmas trees in our house: an artificial one with all the nice store-bought ornaments in the living room where my parents often entertained for the holidays, and one real Christmas tree we’d buy as a family and place in our family room with all of mine and my little brother’s homemade ornaments — it was our own Christmas tree and we adored it. Plus, that was where we entertained OUR friends and played Atari (um, best gift ever from Santa). We even learned about keeping the water level correct for the live tree and took responsibility for maintaining it until after New Year’s Day.

Kelly Mixer

Managing editor

Rudolph in the distance

Growing up in Ohio there were water towers everywhere and with two older brothers they used it to get under my skin.

On top of the tower was one red light. At this time of the year, it could only be one thing – Rudolph’s red nose.

We usually spent Christmas Eve at a neighbor’s house exchanging gifts.

Whenever we’d leave and start walking home, my brothers would invariably enact the Santa “knows when you are awake” rule.

And since I was still awake and Rudolph was so close, I wasn’t going to get any gifts.

I’d throw a fit and tell everyone to hurry home, and my parents would play along and take their grand old time to get me even more riled up.

Jason P. Skoda

Sports reporter

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