Nuclear workers share their favorite holiday traditions

From cherished dishes to memorable decorations, many people have a special holiday ritual. We asked our nuclear employees what they look forward to most this time of year. Here are just a few of their favorite traditions.

Battle of the mouse

Joseph Yanes
Joseph Yanes (left) and family at Christmas, 1996

For Joe Yanes, the holidays mean putting on your game face. Since elementary school, he and his sister have battled over a small, cotton-stuffed mouse with a Santa hat. As part of the family’s Advent calendar, the siblings would argue over who would move the mouse each day in the countdown until Christmas. As they got older, the siblings competed to see who would be the first to move the mouse each morning. “By high school, we kept score to see who would ‘win Christmas’ by moving it the most,” said Yanes.  

Yanes recalls Christmas in 2001 when his sister was winning 12 to 11 the day before Christmas Eve. Just before midnight, Yanes distracted his sister and snuck into the kitchen to move the mouse for the final time. “I was surprised to find a note was already there,” said Yanes. It turns out his sister had planted a decoy mouse for Yanes to move. While he read the note aloud, his sister pulled out the real mouse and “claimed the Christmas Eve pocket and the win.” Yanes is still plotting his revenge by vowing to sew a decoy calendar one year.

Pickle presents

Christmas Pickle
The pickle ornament

Frank Jackson’s wife has a special knack for hiding pickles. Pickle ornaments, that is. Every year, she hides a small, green pickle ornament in the family’s Christmas tree. There is a special “pickle present” for the person who finds it. “Over the years my wife has gotten very good at hiding that ornament!” said Jackson.


A taste of the holidays

At Franklin Fite’s house, bite-sized snacks are a big deal. Each December, Fite’s family gets together to make sausage balls. But, these not the normal size appetizers you may see at an office party. “We try to keep them ‘bite-size,’” said Fite, “which is somewhere around the size of a nickel.” Given their small size, Fite and his family bake a lot. “Normally we make between 1,000 and 1,200 balls, although we have hit the 1,500 mark a couple of times in years past.” It takes a long time to eat that many sausage balls. Sometimes there are a few still in the freezer come spring, so, as Fite puts it, he and his family can “thaw out a taste of the holidays anytime.” 

Trees of many colors

Julio Martinez-Llanos' tree decorated in honor of his nephew

Fifteen years ago, Julio Martinez-Llanos started a tree decorating tradition with his mom and sisters. Each year, they choose a family member and decorate their Christmas trees in that person’s honor. “We decorated our trees in roses, my Mom’s favorite flower, when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” Martinez-Llanos said. Last year, the family chose baby blue to celebrate the birth of Martinez-Llanos’ nephew. This year, after losing several family members to cancer, “We all decorated our Christmas trees in pink to celebrate their lives and their heroic battles,” said Martinez-Llanos. Now, many of Martinez-Llanos’ family members have joined the themed-tree tradition.

Shaking it up

Brad Black
Brad Black (in front) and his brother opening Christmas presents

Growing up, Brad Black and his brother loved Legos. In fact, they loved them so much they would spend hours trying to determine if any of the boxes under the Christmas tree could contain the sought-after bricks. Since the boys weren’t allowed to open any presents until Christmas morning, one year they begged to open their presents early. After some negotiating, “We got our parents to agree we could shake one present to see if it was Legos,” said Black. Since then, the family has kept the box-shaking tradition. “Even though my brother and I are grown with kids of our own, everyone still gets to shake one present on Christmas Eve,” said Black.

Venezuelan New Year

Ana Pisani’s Venezuelan family knows how to ring in the new year. To promote prosperity, everyone makes sure they have cash in their wallets on New Year’s Eve. Each family also eats 12 grapes, making a wish for the upcoming year with each one. “Once we finish making our wishes, we grab our empty suitcases and walk around the block to promote international travel,” said Pisani. They cap off the night with a big celebration complete with fireworks and silly hats. “It’s a Venezuelan thing for sure,” said Pisani. But the fun doesn’t stop there. The family keeps their stockings out until Jan. 6, which is when they’re filled with gifts, and doesn’t take down the Christmas tree until Feb. 1.

Comments (1)

Posted December 15, 2016 by Tina Kuhr
I liked the tradition of decorating the tree in honor or memory of a family member. My family celebrated Hanukkah rather than Christmas. My mother would pile all the presents on our sideboard in the dining room. There was a present for each of us for each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah. We were allowed to chose and open one present each night. It was always a challenge to decide whether to open the biggest present on the first night or the last night.

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