Merry and meaningful: Faculty, staff share their unique holiday traditions

January 6, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Over the past several weeks, employees across Michigan Medicine have been celebrating the holidays. And they’ve being doing it in their own special ways.

Here is a quick glance at just a few of the unique traditions that faculty and staff carry out to make the holiday season happy, bright and — most importantly — meaningful.

Laura Napiewocki, J.D., MHSA, associate general counsel

My husband’s family came from Poland, bringing symbolic traditions with them. Every Christmas Eve, the family gathers together to share a traditional Polish Wigilia. The event starts when the children spot the first star (pierwsza gwiazdka) in the sky. Then, the family shares the oplatek — a thin wafer, whereby each family member breaks bread with each other, wishing them health and other uplifting greetings. The family then sits down for supper, with each course having its own symbolism. Finally, the family sings traditional Polish Christmas carols (Koledy) and each child reads a portion of the Nativity of Jesus. Every year is special and all members of the family, young and old, look forward to it.

Rachel L. Anderson, executive assistant, Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology

My family has a wonderful tradition of combining Hanukkah and Christmas, creating “Hannimus.” We decorate our home combining both holidays. This year, with Hanukkah falling on Christmas, there were some presents wrapped in both Christmas and Hanukkah paper and the tree combined both holidays. At this time of year, we also like to remind our son that people can have a difference of opinion and holidays, yet still come together to celebrate this season of giving with our loved ones. Happy holidays!

Melissa Mietzel, M.S., program manager, Michigan Radiology Oncology Quality Consortium

In early December, my large (and loud!) Polish family comes together to make pierogi. This is a chance for both our immediate and extended family to come together before the rush of the holiday season. In fact, there are so many of us, it has become necessary to rent out the local Polish Falcons club to make the pierogi. From my family to yours, Weso?ych ?wi?t!

Sarah Nodarse, development assistant, surgery

As a Cuban family, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, called Noche Buena. This includes a traditional feast of lechon (roast pork), black beans, rice, yucca and plantains, as well as gift giving. Noche Buena is not only a celebration of Christmas, but a celebration of the day our family immigrated to America: Dec. 24, 1969, when my father was four years old!

Renee Merrill, patient care associate, Cardiovascular Operating Room

My tradition is marching in Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade! I am a tribute Rosie the Riveter out of the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Michigan. We represent the women that worked in the defense plants during WWII. I have been a Rosie for six years and have been blessed to be able to march in Detroit’s parade for the past four years. It is a proud moment to be included in such an extravagant event.

Dianne Singer, M.P.H., project manager, National Poll on Children’s Health and National Poll on Healthy Aging

My brother (and my mom in previous years) cuts evergreen branches from the trees on our family property in northern Michigan and makes beautiful grave blankets for my grandparents’ grave. Our family then goes to the Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit to put the blanket on their graves, say prayers and sing a Polish Christmas carol and conclude the day with a family gathering and meal.

Megan Morrison, B.S.N., R.N., adult emergency services

My predominantly Italian family clings to its food traditions. Starting in November, we make cappelletti (a small filled pasta that is served in chicken broth) and ravioli to freeze and then eat for Christmas. We always wear aprons printed with the statue of David that I bought while in Italy. I am in charge of making some traditional cookies: crostoli/angel wings, pizzelle made with my great grandmother’s pizzelle press, and sometimes biscotti. We also make eggnog from scratch to enjoy after dinner.

Lori Meggitt, Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology

Since our family started growing so much over the years, it seemed like Thanksgiving dinners were getting smaller and smaller — everyone was trying to split time between families running all over the state. So starting in 2017, we held our “First Saturday Thanksgiving dinner” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year, we had 36 people, including family from Florida we hadn’t seen in 30 years. It was a very joyous and blessed Thanksgiving!

Jennifer Tobel, medical assistant, Brighton Health Center

I have a large family — my parents have been married 62 years. Every Christmas Eve, go out to dinner as a family. Not a small amount of people, typically 50-60 or so end up taking over a restaurant! This includes immediate family, nieces and nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts and all of the kids that go with them. After dinner, we go to my parents’ house, where the kids open gifts and we eat cookies, pie and cake for the many birthdays in December and January. With 43 grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren, not a year goes by that we haven’t spent the day together.

Karly Hendee, M.S.N., R.N., quality assurance/nurse coordinator, program evaluation specialist, internal medicine

On Thanksgiving, I started the tradition with my boyfriend of hosting a Friendsgiving for those whose parents they are not close with, have died, do not live in the state or just wanted another TG dinner. It worked out very well. I got to spend time with my friends, ate great food, and no one felt alone.

Tasha Kaiser, clinical research coordinator, Neurology Clinical Trials Organization

My holiday tradition with family is a memory collection. Several of my family members have health conditions. When you don’t know how long you have with someone, a year is a very long time. So we have a mason jar and every year after dinner we read our favorite memories from the previous year — and then we write down new ones to put in the jar to read the next year. It lifts our spirits to hear all of the good times that we had!

For even more traditions celebrated by employees, visit the Employees @ Michigan Medicine Facebook page!

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