It seems to me when the holidays come around, my family members get a lot more wild and crazy than their normal crazy and wild selves. Of all the Christmas stories we have, one in particular stands out.

It was Christmas 2007. Traditionally for the holidays, my family visits my mother’s side of the family at my grandma’s house in Prosser. The kids usually give and receive gifts from one other kid in the family. The adults usually play the white elephant game. And like every other year, my mother tries to introduce our whole family to a “new trend.”

Christmas 2007 was no exception: Karaoke.

Thanks to sales on Black Friday, we were able to buy a karaoke machine for a relatively cheap price. We decided to take our new entertainment to my grandmother’s house. Little did we know this would be my grandpa’s last Christmas with us; he would pass away in March 2008.

As a family we were all accustomed to my grandpa’s habits. He enjoyed watching television while everyone was happily looking at everyone’s gifts, and he enjoyed just watching during the white elephant game. This year was different, though. He still indulged in his helping of Spanish Christmas specials on his favorite network. But unlike every other year, this time he decided to play our white elephant game.

As one of the oldest cousins, I enjoyed watching the adults play for the best gifts, so I had fun watching my grandpa play as well. Of course, his participation was unexpected and he didn’t have a pre-planned gift. He decided to just throw in a pocket knife he had received as a gift. Never had I seen my grandpa so into a game with his family like this.

After the gifts were shared, all 27 cousins and 14 uncles and aunts crammed into my grandparents’ living room to sing our lungs out to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Nelly Furtado. Although I don’t remember everything from that Christmas, or from most of my Christmases, I won’t ever forget how all our family members were completely OK with making fools of themselves and not caring at all.

Every family has its own traditions and issues, but I have never felt more like a family than the last Christmas I spent with my grandpa.

— Abby Ramos, Sunnyside High School

Christmas is a great time of year. The stores are packed with goodies. We get our Christmas lists together and stress about getting all the right presents.

Buying gifts is not a bad thing, but a lot of people have forgotten the greatest gift ever given. I would like to tell this true story of Christmas with the holiday’s favorite candy: the candy cane.

When I was young, my family read a book called “The Legend of the Candy Cane,” written by Lori Walburg and illustrated by James Bernardin. The candy cane symbols I learned from that book stay with me today.

If you put the candy cane upside down, it looks like the letter “J.” This letter stands for Jesus. Romans 5:16 says, “Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.” Everybody has sinned, and that separates us from God.

In Matthew 1:18: “Before Joseph and Mary came together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem and Jesus was born in a stable. The king of the universe was born in the humblest place.

When you flip the candy cane right-side up it looks like a shepherd’s staff. The shepherds were the first to hear the great news that Jesus was lying in a manger in Bethlehem. They were told this message by an angel, and then the sky was filled with a heavenly host singing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The shepherds went to see Jesus and were overjoyed. After they saw him, they went and told everyone they saw the Messiah was born and he was lying in the manger.

The stripes on the candy cane represent the stripes Jesus endured as he was whipped, beaten and put on a cross to die. Jesus was perfect and therefore the only one who could die and take away all of our sins. When we believe in Jesus, we are forgiven of all our sins past, present and future. The white on the candy came represents when we become white as snow because Jesus has made us clean.

Jesus Christ is Christmas. He was the best gift ever given; all you have to do is accept it. Jesus truly is the reason for the season. I am so glad Jesus is in my life. He can be in yours, too. Merry Christmas!

— April Soelberg, Riverside Christian School

Every Christmas since he was old enough to understand the concept of presents, my brother, Mason, has woken me up at some horribly early hour.

So it was no surprise, really, when he did exactly that on Christmas morning in 2007. But this time, it was a little different.

Rewind a few days. My mom, my dad, my brother and I had just arrived at the cabin we would be staying in over Christmas that year with my aunt, uncle and grandparents.

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, my 10-year-old self and my 7-year-old brother were understandably excited when it was time to go to bed.

After being abruptly awakened the next morning, I practically sprinted down half a flight of stairs and skidded into the room my parents were staying in. As if the bang of the door being suddenly opened wasn’t enough to wake them up, I cleared my throat and gave them my announcement: “Merry Christmas, Mason’s puking.” And then I promptly left the room, no doubt leaving my parents in a state of groggy confusion.

While my parents made their way up the stairs to the loft bedroom that I was sharing with my brother, I descended the remaining stairs into the living room, where I settled in to await the awakening of the rest of my relatives.

As my parents tended to my brother for what seemed like an unreasonable amount of time, my aunt, uncle and grandparents joined me, one by one, in my wait beside the beckoning pile of presents.

Mason finally made such a convincingly miraculous recovery that he was allowed to participate in his favorite Christmas tradition: enthusiastically unwrapping every present with his name on it

That Christmas was as good as any I’ve had so far.

— Jillian Foutz, Davis High School

Every Christmas, my brother and I wake up in the morning to open our presents. Sometimes we open some presents late Christmas Eve, around 11 p.m., and then open more early Christmas morning just after midnight or 1 a.m. It’s kind of a tradition in my house.

On Christmas Eve five years ago, we were on our way to my aunt and uncle’s house. It was cold and dark, so we huddled up in our coats as we drove to their home. It was like any other Christmas: unwrapping gifts, sharing laughs and eating together. We unwrapped our gifts first. The kids sat on the floor and the adults sat on chairs and the couch as each person unwrapped gifts one at a time. Then it was time to eat. My aunts finished cooking and people gathered around the steaming hot food to dish up their plates, everything from turkey to dessert.

While everyone was eating the talking got louder, so at times I could barely hear myself talk. People finished eating dinner and walked into the kitchen to put their plates and silverware in the sink. Then, we headed back to the table to eat dessert. My grandpa can eat an entire apple pie in one sitting, and he just eats the filling, not the crust. Every year we make two apple pies: one for my grandpa, and one for anyone else who wants a slice. My grandpa isn’t a big guy; he just likes his apple pie.

This year, when my cousin was on his way back to the table with his dessert, he tripped on the rug and the pie went flying across the room, nearly hitting my mom and my cousin, which made me fall down. I ended up dropping two of my family members’ plates on the floor and they weren’t done eating yet.

Everyone just ended up laughing. It was one of the best Christmases ever.


— Stephanie Carman,

Eisenhower High School

The first six years of my life were spent on the small island of Haiti in the Caribbean. So, subsequently my first six Christmases were spent with sunshine, warmth and palm trees. My mother threw the best Christmas Eve parties. She was an amazing host, cook and entertainer. The parties went into the wee hours of the morning, or so it seemed to a 6-year-old. The activities went in this order: food, games and fireworks.

The food was very Haitian, consisting of rice, beans, goat, pig, chicken and many other traditional dishes. The table was always heaped with items. The guests were, of course, my mother and I, then the members of our household (mission guards who watched over our mission compound, and nannies who took care of me and cleaned the house), along with whatever missionaries were in the area. We would all gather around the table and give thanks. The feeling of togetherness, love and family was amazing. We had one family in each other on that night.

The games we would play were often ridiculous. My mother had us dressing as gender opposites and she would have others guess who we were imitating. There were intense rounds of cards that got crazy. Or we would come up with something ourselves. Either choice that was made, the laughs never stopped as we enjoyed each other’s company.

Last were the fireworks. Seeing as we had no snow, my mother had to add an element of shine to our nights. Toward the end of the party, everyone would move out to the terrace. From there we would light sparklers (my favorite), launch rockets, set off firecrackers, and run around until they were all gone. Then the next day we would try to find them. That part of the evening is blurry in my mind, but the sounds of laughter, screaming, and the smell of fireworks is ever present.

Even though Haiti is far away now, those nights remain vivid in my mind and heart of a time when the world was simple. I hope everyone has a happy holiday and enjoys time with their families as they celebrate their own traditions.

— Peter Wachsmith, Naches Valley High School

Christmas is a time filled with joy. However, when you hear rumors that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, that’s a different story. I heard such gossip when I was 13 years old.

It all started when my mother and I made cookies on Christmas Eve. We left them there for Santa to eat. We then visited my grandparents across the street to wish them a Merry Christmas. I returned home to find presents beneath the Christmas tree. The cookies on the stove had disappeared. It was 8 p.m. Normally Santa would come on Christmas morning. Perhaps this was the perfect opportunity for him to come; the house was vacant. After all, there were other children around the world waiting for him.

Surrounded by my family under the Christmas tree, I opened my presents. I then found a letter from Santa, in cursive handwriting, Santa told me that he wouldn’t come to my house anymore. I deserved to know the truth. My family explained that they were the ones that bought me the presents. They said that it’s time to let Santa go. I was 13, which meant I was no longer a child. I suddenly realized that Santa may not exist at all. My heart filled with despair; why would they tell me about Santa in the first place if he didn’t exist? Where did my family hear this? Was I too old to believe in magic?

I woke up on Christmas Day with thoughts from the previous night. What had just happened? I approached my living room to find more presents under the tree; they were all from my family. The thought of Santa was still on my mind; maybe Mom was the one that wrote me that letter. All she wanted was for me to have a reality check; that’s what I get for being the teenager I’ve always longed to be. I couldn’t wait for him to come through the chimney and devour my famous chocolate chip cookies again! I opened a card from Mom. It mentioned that if Santa existed or not, he’s always welcome at home.

Even at 16, Santa’s still in my heart.

— Ciara Hansen, Naches Valley High School

As far back as I can remember, there has been one crucial part of Christmas: feeding the reindeer.

When I was younger, I would stand on my toes and throw oatmeal and glitter on the roof with my sister every Christmas. Taking a clump of the mixture, I threw it around me with the dissatisfaction of it falling in a cloud after only a few feet.

Now, I still feed the reindeer, and I can proudly throw much higher.

My father always told my sister and me that reindeer needed something to guide them to our house, and thus the glitter and oatmeal combination was created.

The reindeer are attracted to the shiny roof covered in glitter, and the oatmeal provides extra nourishment. With this in mind, feeding the reindeer was, for me, a very serious task.

My sister and I carefully measured the correct amount of oatmeal in relation to glitter, and would then walk outside carrying two large bags of the mixture.

Next, we threw it into the air one handful at a time, trying to aim past the wooden slates on the side of our house and onto the very top of the roof.

I loved to watch the oatmeal and glitter fall while we continued on in our work, and seeing the bright colors rain down in the darkness outside.

After the mixture was gone, we looked around at our creation; the roof and snow were shining with blue and purple speckles of glitter and oatmeal.

I knew that the reindeer would have to come for our outstanding reindeer-food combination.

— Ava Gempler,

Davis High School

A Christmas memory that I will always keep happened last year. It was such a great Christmas; I loved everything about it. All of my family was there, and that’s all that really mattered.

It wasn’t about just some gift I got that day that was really cool to me. The gift that I really wanted and waited for was already there, and that was to be with my entire family all of Christmas and New Year’s. To me, that’s the greatest gift and memory. Family is the most important thing to me in life because, unlike material gifts, they don’t get small, worn out or lost.

My family was there to have fun and see long-lost faces and to be with each other on this special holiday. We did have fun! We even clicked on the strobe light, turned up the music and let loose. We all talked and shared stories with each other about the past. We ate the food our moms and aunts prepared for us. I really loved seeing my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. That day meant so much to me, just to be with my entire family.

— Jesse Berumen, Kittitas Secondary School

When I was in the fourth grade, my father came home from Iraq for two weeks of rest and relaxation. He made it just in time for Christmas.

These two weeks were the most fun, having him home. About two or three days after Christmas, though, he was scheduled to go back.

I remember waking up at about 4 a.m. to go take him to the airport. We said our long, saddened goodbye, and went back home.

Later that morning, my brothers and I heard my mom talking to someone in the kitchen. It sounded like our father, but we didn’t think it was him because we just left him at the airport. So we went to see who she was talking to, and to our surprise, it was him. Our father!

His flight had been canceled until the next day because of very heavy snow. This was the best news any of us had heard. So that day, the whole family packed up the truck and headed out to White Pass to go sledding. We had such a blast. None of us wanted the day to end. We were in the snow until sundown (but being winter that really isn’t late).

We stayed up late that night, just making sure we had enough time with Dad. The next morning, we were hoping for his flight to be canceled, but the snow stopped so it was time for him to go back.

Although we were sad to see him go, we were happy to be able to have him home one last day.

— Tristan Vijarro,

Toppenish High School

When you are 8, being up past 10 p.m. is probably the most exciting thing you can do.

Now, given that I was a small child, most of these details have grown fuzzy.

My first image from this memory is our dark hallway on Christmas Eve. My giggles were echoing off the walls as I tiptoed and stepped on every squeaky floorboard.

My brother was already in front of the tree wrapping my parents’ extra gift for them. I really wanted to be a part of this little event, having a secret gift and all. Problem was, I didn’t have a gift. I was a very creative child, though.

For the next hour my brother and I worked on our presents. By that point I had crafted together a Nike shoebox house. All the furniture was made of crafting paper, taped to stand up straight. The lid could close, and I wrapped it up as tight as I could possibly get (which really was like when all your sheets have been ripped off your bed and you can’t stay warm due to them being so loose.)

When I asked my mom about the box this year, I found out she still has it. I like the fact that my cardboard box hasn’t been recycled yet, but was important enough to be saved for good laughs.

— Lindsay Schwehr,

Eisenhower High School

Memory has never been a friend of mine, as I have forgotten more than I can remember. Whether it’s the clothes I wore to school last week or the name of a newly acquainted friend, I find it difficult to recall basic information.

However, there are certain occurrences that I am able to recollect down to the most insignificant of details. Among these unusual moments of remembrance is the infamous memory of my little sister ruining what should have been the best Christmas ever.

When I was 10, all I could think about was receiving a motorcycle as a Christmas present. The thoughts of wind blowing past me as I sped down the blacktop gave me sudden rushes of adrenaline. So, you could picture my excitement when I saw that the biggest present beside our Christmas tree was addressed to me. The gift had been covered with a large white tarp, tied loosely with a thin red bow. My mind raced as I tried to imagine an object with such a strange shape. Is it a four-wheeler? Or maybe a new bike? A Saint Bernard?

As I was daydreaming, my little sister asked if I wanted to hear a secret. Being told a secret by one’s sibling is as irresistible as a fresh batch of delicious chocolate chip cookies, so I said yes.

I’ll never forget that moment when she sweetly whispered, “Mom and dad got you a motorcycle for Christmas.” In fact, it turned out to be a Yamaha 100cc model dirt bike.

All of the anticipation I once had was replaced with a short burst of joy, followed by disappointment. Was this sneak peak something to be ashamed of? I knew what had to come next, and hated myself for my childish weakness. As a result, I had to fake my excitement so my parents wouldn’t feel like they had chosen the wrong gift.

Such an experience had taught me that while patience is difficult, it makes what you’re waiting for worthwhile.

— Hunter Long,

Davis High School

Back in December 2006, the winter my family and I moved from Colorado, we experienced one of the worst snowstorms in years.

My dad was in Washington working and finding us a new home, and the rest of my family and I were living in Denver temporarily with my grandparents until we were going to move in January. We were working through the changes well, until our yellow Labrador (named Benny) got a very nasty gash on one of his paws, which made us go to the nearby emergency veterinarian in Denver.

In addition to driving a bleeding dog to a vet after a massive snowstorm on rough roads, we were preparing for my dad to fly in that night to visit us for Christmas. The vet found out in addition to needing surgery on his paw, there was another injured paw. So both front paws needed to be worked on. After the operation, Benny was practically drunk from the sedation; it took two people to get him back in the vehicle.

After we laid out some blankets and secured a plastic cone on his head — to prevent him from messing up his paws and tearing out the stitches — we picked up our dad from the airport. Benny acted like an overly intoxicated drunk all night. When Benny got his bearings back the next day, it was funny to watch him adapt to the cone and bandages. We had to put his food dish on about five textbooks so he could reach the bowl with his cone on!

We had to repeatedly change his bandages until we acquired “boots” for him to wear, since his bandages had to stay dry. Each time he went outside, we dressed him up in his little yellow boots so he could go outside safely in the huge snow drifts. Whenever Benny did go outside, though, he often submerged himself in the snowdrifts by accident. Then he’d come running back all awkwardly, splaying his feet out to accommodate the boots he was wearing.

Over the next week, Benny managed to tear apart the edges on his cone along with the walls, knock people over, and fall over multiple times while getting stuck in corners. He also whipped people with his head, and got stuck under the tables. Eventually, he learned to play fetch with himself by tossing the ball in the air with the cone.

A few days before we left Colorado, we were able to take off his casts and cone, and he was back to normal again. Then, we flew up to Washington and began a new adventure.

— Ryan Miller,

Selah High School

Christmas is always imagined as a joyful, relaxing and loving holiday. However, at the Moorer house, it is rarely ever like this.

Yes, we love each other and yes, we are happy to be together. But somehow, some sort of shanenigans always seem to cause the day to unravel, at least a little. Christmas of 2008 is a perfect example.

My Aunt Teresa and Uncle Thor live in Olympia, and always come home to Yakima for the holidays. However, that year their dog, Cocoa, was very sick, and they did not want to leave her alone for four days. So they decided that Teresa would come over on Dec. 23, while Thor would stay at home, come over for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and then head home on Christmas Night. At least, this was the plan.

On Christmas Eve, however, Thor did not arrive, and he was not answering his phone. Fearful thoughts ran through our heads. “What if he was in a car crash?” “What if Cocoa had taken a turn for the worse?” “Why hadn’t he arrived?”

We were all nervous and anxious for hours, through the evening of Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning, until finally, my aunt received a call. It was Thor calling. He wasn’t in a car crash, and Cocoa was doing fine. Instead, the night before, he had let his phone die, stayed up all night watching the A&E James Bond marathon, had fallen asleep, and had just woken up.

Needless to say, my family was upset. However, three hours later when he arrived, we were all very happy to be together.

— Olivia Moorer

La Salle High School

Ah, the holidays.

A time of giving, receiving, snowmen, egg nog, a house full of family, and oversized Christmas trees that can’t fit through your front door.

Well, at least that’s what my holidays consist of.

If your family is anything like mine, you’ll know what I mean when I talk about big Christmas trees. It’s almost like a competition each year to get the biggest, fullest, most pine-scented tree possible. Because what’s better than coming home to an oversized tree in your front room, lit with bright lights and ornaments? I’ll tell you: Nothing.

Well, in 2005 I came home to an oversized Christmas tree. Except that instead of it being assembled in the corner of my living room, as it had been every other year, I came home to it propped up against the side of my house. I thought to myself, “Wow, that’s a huge Christmas tree. Why the heck isn’t it inside yet?”

And a huge Christmas tree it was. In fact, as I came to find out, it was too big to get into my house. My brother and dad had tried every door, every angle, everything. It wasn’t getting past my front steps.

A small part of me was upset that this gigantic tree wasn’t going to be in my house that Christmas. I was so excited to have my friends come over and admire the size of it.

So, instead of getting rid of the extremely large tree, we decided to dig a hole and plant it in our yard. Still it sits, very much alive, reminding my family and me each Christmas season about the year that we couldn’t fit it into our house, and warning us to never get a tree that big again.

— Kendyl Comiskey

West Valley High School

When I was 4, my family took a trip to Leavenworth to visit my cousins around Christmastime. It was my first time being to Leavenworth, and I had no idea what to expect.

From the moment I got there, I fell in love with it. I was infatuated with the rustic German feel of the little city and was thrilled by each and every shop and their oddities. When we’d wandered nearly every street of the little town and figured we’d exhausted our options, I heard something on the intercom.

It was a boy singing, and I could tell it wasn’t on the radio. He was also singing one of my favorite Christmas songs. When the song ended, an announcer reminded everyone in the area that it was open mike at the gazebo, and all ages were welcome.

Ecstatic, I dragged my mom to the foot of the gazebo and waited somewhat patiently in line. When my turn rolled around, I bounded on stage and without any announcement of who I was or what I was singing, I belted out “Up on the Housetop.”

It was the first time I’d ever performed in front of a public audience and it was also the best time I’d ever had performing in front of an audience. I’d never felt more confident, just dancing around and chanting that song.

— Hannah McFadden

Eisenhower High School

My parents grew up with none of the advantages that they have given my two sisters and me, which would be providing for all of our wants and needs.

My family has saved money to celebrate the holidays every year. For as long as I can remember, my family teams up and decorates the house the day after Thanksgiving. We drag out the Christmas tree, garland, lights, ornaments and other Christmas decorations from the crawl space underneath the house.

However, as much I like decorating with the family, and enjoy our Christmas Day celebration, what I like most during this time of the year would have to be watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with my family.

The holidays can cause a lot of stress, and people can go a little crazy looking for the “perfect” gift for people, and I feel like Christmas has been too commercialized. People focus more on gifts then spending quality time with family.

This idea of being together is why I like watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” while eating popcorn with M&Ms. My 15-year-old sister, Emily, can recite some of the Grinch’s lines, and we all laugh at how well she can quote him.

I am grateful for the many Christmases my family has provided me with. They have always maintained a happy home full of cheerful laughter that grows stronger when the holidays come by.

— Audrey Navarro

Toppenish High School

If there’s one thing I have a love/hate relationship with, it’s snow.

I love how it can make you feel like Christmas is here, and how you keep trying to catch it with your tongue, and after the first half-hour it’s still entertaining.

What I hate about snow is the mushy, gray pile of mud, and the line of footprints on a used-to-be-perfect blanket of snow.

Almost every year my dad takes my siblings and me to White Pass where we ski. But when I think back at my favorite memories in the snow, I always remember the one year where the snow was too soft.

Like any other ski trip, we took the chair up to the top of the mountain. The snow was still falling and at that time we didn’t know how soft it really was. At the steepest part of our route, I felt someone slam into the back of me. I looked back to see my older sister clinging onto me, and our skis were stuck together.

When I finally pushed her off of me, I lost control and ran into my dad. After he pushed me off I fell and lost one of my skis somewhere deep in the snow. I looked up to see my dad losing control and falling hard on his knee.

This all happened in what must have been seconds. With all of us on the ground, we heard a wailing scream. We all looked down the mountain and saw my younger brother wailing and crying. He was dancing around and had to go to the bathroom really badly.

I look back at that memory and realize how beautifully the incident occurred, with each person in just the right place at the right time for the comedy to ensue. I can honestly say it is my best winter memory.

— Jasmine Randhawa

East Valley High School

• Read more stories from the members of the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed program for high school journalists online at yakimaherald.com/valleylife/unleashed.