From Kentucky to Israel, TUSDM Celebrates the Holidays

Before leaving for the Winter Break, Dean Huw Thomas sent holiday greetings to the TUSDM staff and faculty with remembrances of his childhood holidays in Wales.

When I was a child in Wales, we had many celebrations and customs around this time of year. But the one I remember most of all is the tradition of Hel Calennig, an ancient custom of the New Year. On New Year’s Day morning, all the children in town go house to house, wishing the occupants “Blwyddyn Newydd dda i chi,” which is Welsh for “Happy New Year to you.” Singing is very much a part of Welsh culture, and the children on Calennig sing carols and rhymes for their neighbors, who reward them with money.

Calennig predates even Christmas as a holiday, and sadly seems to be dying out in Wales. But I still have very fond memories of walking around my small home town of Brecon on New Year’s Day. My father and mother celebrated Calennig when they were children, as did my grandparents; its spirit of neighborliness, good will, and community resounds in Wales even today.

-Dean Huw Thomas

My favorite holiday memory is visiting Israel with my family during Hanukkah, and finding that hotel guests bring their own family menorahs with them to the hotels in Israel. They say the blessings and light their menorahs in the hotel lobbies for the eight nights of Hanukkah. What a wonderful sense of community!

-Dr. Sheldon Duchin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Periodontology

Being raised in a very traditional southern German Roman Catholic family, our customs centered on celebrating the nativity and the exchange of gifts.  Christmas Eve figured most prominently.  We gathered at my paternal grandparents’ house with my father’s two brothers and their children. For the first hour or so we socialized while the dinner was in the final stages of preparation, after which we feasted on a meal that always include turkey and ham.  We then all gathered in the living room around the Christmas tree to exchange gifts.  After the gift exchange, we all attended midnight mass.  The following morning, in our own home, we woke up early to find presents around the tree.  We then visited my maternal grandparents for the third and final gift exchange followed by yet another feast, Kentucky style – brunch that always included fried chicken.  In all settings, Christmas music played in the background, and we sang Christmas carols and played various board games.  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day were also celebrated as a family holiday with games and desserts.

-Dr. Robert Kasberg, Associate Dean for Admissions and Student Affairs