This month, we asked staff to share some of their fondest or funniest holiday memories.


Most of my Christmas memories have a fire in them. They are warmed, lit and scented by a fire.

When we lived at home — I was one of six children — we would start Christmas mornings in our rooms: the sleeping porch upstairs for some of us and others in their own rooms downstairs.

I'm not sure how my parents signaled us, letting us know it was OK to open the doors to our rooms, come downstairs and march into the new living room (a later addition to the house and not to be confused with the old living room), but we knew. Maybe knew the way kids do on Christmas Day.

We would flood into the room, the tree splendid with presents tumbling into the middle of the floor. Bikes, skateboards, dolls, basketballs, tennis racquets, skis. Opposite the tree was the fireplace that housed a roaring fire.

The Christmas fire seemed to be bigger and burn hotter than fires on any other day of the year, even the colder, foggier ones.

The six children would take turns sitting on the white painted hearth with their backs to the fire. Scooting closer and then farther away when sweatshirts, nightgowns and pajamas seemed capable of catching on fire.

We would wait our turns with Dad standing in front of the tree handing out the presents.

"To Derek from Santa," and Derek would stand up, surrender his place in front of the fire, and walk to the other end of the room for his gift.

"To Hopie from Mom and Dad," and Hope would do the same.

I remember those fires, the Christmases and Dad, too. He was happy. Dad loved Christmas and a good fire almost as much as he did his family.

— Herb Benham, columnist


Two particular Christmas memories stand out for me.

When I was about 4 years old, the doorbell rang on Christmas morning — and it was Santa Claus! As we opened the door, I could see my grandparents' friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lyons, standing at the end of the driveway. Had they brought Santa to our house?

We invited Santa inside. Santa began to take off his heavy coat, and I was very confused, because it was my grandpa! I wasn't sure what to make of it all. But over the years I came to learn that my grandpa had boarded a flight from Chicago to San Diego to surprise his granddaughters on Christmas morning.

I also remember that my sister was in charge of passing out all the Christmas gifts. My family always went overboard at Christmas, so there were a lot of gifts. My sister would wake up very early, examine each package and memorize the tags. When it was time for her to pass everything out, she didn't even need to look at the tags. She'd pick up a gift, hand it to the recipient and tell them who it was from. She was quite serious about this job!

— Christine L. Peterson, executive editor


My favorite Christmas memories always make me think of my Grandma Garnett. My grandparents lived in a small house in Oildale, where my dad and aunties grew up. Her tree was always in the front window, so you could see it from the street. She loved tinsel. Her tree was covered in it. She was a huge fan of QVC. She shopped all year long for Christmas. The presents on Christmas Eve would almost block the door and filled the small living room, leaving just enough room to find a place to sit on the sidelines.

The aroma of green beans and bacon always filled the house. She loved to cook! We gathered there every Christmas Eve with the whole family. One of us kids would play Santa and pass out presents to everyone and soon the huge pile of pretty packages would be reduced to a pile of crumples paper and bows. She would get up the day after and start shopping for the year to come. I sure do miss her.

— Michelle Lanham, sales manager


My interest in getting to the bottom of a story started at a young age. Although I knew who Santa really was before I probably should have, I also knew not to mess up a good thing. 

That meant for a couple of years never to disturb Santa's two "helpers" at work on Christmas Eve. Presents from Santa were always left unwrapped and ready to go under the tree, so that meant that all the precision assembly took place in the wee hours of the holiday morning. 

In 1982, my dad tackled the Glamour Gals Ocean Queen cruise ship playset, a 3-foot-long "Love Boat"-style vessel with more than 50 pieces of furniture and accessories. He had to assemble the boat, apply all the decal stickers, secure the railing and pennant flags on the boat's deck and arrange the furniture across three levels. 

With more kids into electronics these days, parents may not understand the struggles of previous generations to get gifts from Santa "just right." But rest assured, it was worth all the effort — even if I really knew who was delivering the goods.

— Stefani Dias, features editor


My wife learned the hard way long ago that it's not a good idea to tickle me. It may be a barrel of laughs, it may even be fun for the tickler, but it's torture and I won't put up with it without a fight. (Sorry again, Honey. How's that bruise looking?)

When it's your dad, though, and when you're 8 years old, sometimes it's best to just do whatever's necessary to avoid getting drawn in.

I say that in my own self-defense, literally, because one day in Christmas Past my dad thought it would be funny to ask me what kind of present he was getting.

Only, he didn't stop there. To make the joke better, he threatened to tickle me if I didn't tell him.

No sooner had those words left his lips, without so much as a raising of his hand, than I came out with it: A new pool cue, an Oxford shirt and a pingpong paddle. Just don't tickle me.

Mom was furious, Dad sheepish and I, playing victim, was untouchable. All these years later, just one takeaway sticks with me: Don't tickle your kids. Or even pretend you're going to. Not around the holidays, anyway.

— John Cox, business editor


We don't have a lot of family in the United States, so my Christmases were not a raucous occasion surrounded by a plethora of cousins and aunts and uncles. 

Still, my parents filled our social calendar by going to all our friends' houses; as immigrants, we still had each other! 

We did develop one tradition throughout the years: Harry Potter movies. My most cozy memories involve my brother, parents and I curled up on the couch and watching Harry battle dragons, Malfoy and Lord Voldemort. We love the first and second Harry Potter movies. Often, we fantasized about having the giant Christmas trees stretching to the ceiling, beautiful flurries of snow, and giant feasts. 

Looking back, Harry Potter truly is a true holiday movie. His friends and the Weasleys provide him the warmth and happiness he always sought. He gets a true Christmas by being around his loved ones, despite no blood relation. 

And what could be more Christmas than all that? 

— Ishani Desai, public safety reporter