Each year, The Times sports staff asks some of our region athletes and coaches to recount their favorite holiday memories. Below are their responses.
From our Times sports family to yours, happy holidays
Chesterton freshman swimmer Amy Socha doesn't feel shortchanged during the holidays, even though her birthday is Christmas Eve.
"Some people feel sorry for me," Socha said, "because they feel I'll only get presents one time.
"It doesn't really matter to me. It's the thought that counts."
But Socha does appreciate that her family splits the occassions.
"Our family has always kept my birthday and Christmas very separate," she said. "They're really good about that."
At this point, no birthday/Christmas celebrations stands out in her mind.
"They've all been pretty good," she said.
-- Jim Hunsley
Hunt through the tree: The family of Kankakee Valley girls basketball player Lauren Stokes has started a tradition like no other.
Stokes, one of two children in her immediate family and one of eight cousins, said that she joins her extended family at her grandmother's home every year on Christmas. It's a house filled with cousins, aunts, uncles and love. And competition.
In the last few years, Stokes' grandmother began hiding a vegetable in the Christmas tree and asks the children to find it. The first to find the item receives a gift.
"My grandmother puts a pickle in the Christmas tree," Stokes said. "My whole family is really competitive. I have never found it."
The award for the finder of the Christmas pickle is typically something like a McDonald's gift card, Stokes said.
"It's not about the gift," she said. "It's just that finding the pickle is one-upping everyone else." — Hillary Smith
Trimming the tree: Marian Catholic football coach Jerry Verde said his Christmas moment just a few weeks ago.
"My fondest Christmas memory so far with my daughter Jaclyn would have to be putting ornaments on our Christmas tree," Verde said. "She is only a 18 months old, so last year she didn't understand what was going on. Unfortunately she didn't understand that trimming the tree was a one-time job, so she has continually been taking ornaments off, and trying to put them back on." -- Mike Nieto
Mom's best friend: T.F. South sophomore football and baseball player Louis Reynolds said his favorite story is about a gift he helped pick out. he hand his sister Cori, a senior volleyball and softball player got together for a special present for their mom.
"My mom loves dogs, especially beagles," Reynolds said. "We had to put our beagle (Buster) down in 2005. My Mom took that really hard. My sister Cori and I started talking in the summer of 2010 about getting Mom a beagle puppy for Christmas. It took us a long time to convince our Dad to do it, but we wore him down and he said yes.
"We went to a breeder in Bolingbrook, and he had only two left to choose from. They both were adorable, but my sister and I both liked the same one, so that’s the one we bought. It was still a week before Christmas, so my grandmother said she would keep him until Christmas Day. We visited the puppy several times that week and couldn’t wait to see Mom’s face when she saw her gift. Because my family members are all huge Chicago Cubs fans, we decided to name the dog Wrigley."
Then came the big moment as Santa Claus delivered the puppy.
"On Christmas morning, as we were opening gifts, my grandmother’s boyfriend brought Wrigley to the house," he said. "We put him in a grocery bag, told Mom to close her eyes, and placed the bag on her lap. When she opened her eyes, Wrigley walked right out of the bag, crawled up to her, and began licking her face. My Mom started crying because she NEVER expected we would get her a puppy for Christmas. Now the two of them are inseparable. That’s when I learned that receiving gifts for Christmas is great, but seeing somebody else’s joy is even more rewarding." -- Mike Nieto
Badminton Christimas memories: The T.F. South badminton team has some short, but good memories.
Jeanne Colin, a sophomore exchange student from France said: "Christmas in the USA is very similar to Christmas in France. I miss going to midnight Mass with my mother, while my dad cooked our Christmas meal for the next day. Dinner always consisted of seafood -- lobster, crab and oysters.
Senior Jessica Gomez said her family went away for the holidays. "When I was younger, our family would travel to Mexico to see my grandmother and celebrate Christmas."
Sophomore Kristi Fisher has fond memories of Christmas with her uncle. "I remember getting 10 - $2 bills from my uncle for Christmas. He passed away shortly thereafter. I still have the 10 bills."
Senior Cassie Breshock said she enjoys her family visits. "One year I got to spend Christmas with my mom's side and dad's side. Usually we just spend it with my dad's side, so it was really special to be with my entire family."