Staff Stories: Holiday Traditions

By Common Desk - December 23rd, 2019

If you know Common Desk, then you know we love to go all out for holidays! Whether it’s poppin’ champagne on our birthday, hosting a Friendsgiving feast, or flipping our coffee shop- Fiction Coffee- into a Christmas wonderland, we like to go big! So it wouldn’t really surprise you to know that our staff members love to celebrate the holidays in fun and unique ways when they head out of the office and head home for some much deserved time off.

We truly believe that we have the most amazing staff and are so grateful to work alongside such a fun and diverse group of people. We are all different and come from different backgrounds but when we are together, we’re just one big family!

Our hope is that as you read over these traditions, you’ll find entertainment, joy, sentiment, and an understanding of what makes Common Desk so special.

Get your pen and paper ready, because you’re gonna want to jot some of these down and add them to your own list of traditions!

Every year, my family builds and decorates a gingerbread house. And this isn’t your typical gingerbread house…we create our own design on a computer software, cut out all the pieces with an exacto knife, and go into way too much detail decorating. Every house has a theme – the first year I moved to Texas, we made a gingerbread ranch! It’s super time consuming and a bit tedious, but building the house each year is my favorite tradition! – Kaitlin, Austin Marketing Manager

A tradition I truly miss is something called a “Posada”. This includes a procession of carolers (usually the neighborhood kids and families) singing songs at each house picking up neighbors as they make their way to the designated party house. Families pitch in tamales, punch, and a star pinata (this is a thing). It’s an amazing Mexican holiday tradition. – Justin, Digital Strategist

Singing in my grandparents’ den. It’s typically unplanned but somehow, my giant family ends up in my grandparent’s din with my grandma leading on the piano, either during Thanksgiving or Christmas. One of us starts a song that we felt led to sing, and my granny figures it out on the piano in the blink of an eye. Lots of tears and smiles during these moments. (This sounds super hallmarky) lol – Jim Bob, Addison Community Manager

For our family we have always received an ornament for each kid on Christmas Eve. It’s the only gift we are able to unwrap and we always look forward to it. Our tree is a mix and match of Christmas ornaments from four kids lives spanning over 30 years now. It’s a lot and I love it because every-time I look at it sweet memories come to mind. One time my mom didn’t get us one because she thought, since we were all out of the house and not kids anymore, we wouldn’t want one and we instantly freaked out. She left and grabbed ornaments that night for Christmas day the next day. – Kacie B., Richardson Hospitality Associate

I feel like this is a lot of people’s, but on Christmas Eve we always gift pajamas and the next morning, we wake up, make cinnamon rolls and coffee and just relax together while Dax opens up some gifts. It’s such a peaceful time and one that I treasure every year! -Becca, Product Manager

Every Christmas the local theater in Rhode Island does a ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ play production. This movie is near and dear to my families heart so we do that and pretty much cry the whole time haha Then that night on Christmas Eve ALL the family comes to my sister’s house and we make the ‘7 seas pasta’ — (mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops, cod, squid and lobster…. We’re in Rhode Island so it’s only fitting!). Then after dinner there’s a mysterious BANG BANG BANG on the front door and the kids rush to the front door and when they open it there is a stack of presents from TWINKLE TOES… Twinkle Toes is an elf that brings jammies to all the kids to wear that night and into Christmas morning. – Amy, Anderson Lane Community Manager

Katie Jo and I love to do a custom ornament night. Growing up, our tree was full of ornaments that brought back special memories and that’s what we’re trying to create now that we have a son. A few favorite pictures from the year, some crafty items and eggnog will typically get the job done. -Nick, CEO

Every year my family decorates the Christmas tree together, and one year my dad pulled out the video camera to record us. While we decorated, our parents would interview us on what grade we’re in, what we wanted for Christmas, what sports we played, and made us sing a Christmas carol for the camera. When I was a kid I always hated it, but now we have 25 years of precious Christmas memories on tape! -Emily, Far East Austin Community Manager

My favorite Christmas tradition is making a delicious waffle breakfast and then reading the Christmas story with my family. It’s so special to slow down and soak up the grace that is present in every minute. This slowing down allows our hearts time to feel this precious grace and remember the true Gift in life before opening the gifts under the tree. Typically we put a few board games under there and spend the rest of the day laughing and playing our new games together. – Common Desk Staff Member

Getting Drunk – Christian the great, Addison Facilities Associate

My family has always traveled during the holidays, so we love to partake in other cultures’ holiday traditions! My favorite tradition we do is the folk tale of the Icelandic Yule Lads. As the story goes, the 13 Yule Lads visit Icelandic children on the 13 days of Christmas, leaving goodies for the good kids, and (get this) old potatoes for the mischievous. We’ve implemented it as a fun switch-up to our family countdown to Christmas day! – Jewel, 6th & Congress Hospitality Associate

Watching my Mom try and force everyone to take group photos and pose with each present as she scrambles from person to person to get that perfect Kodak moment. -Josh Hogan, West End Facilities Associate

My favorite Holiday Tradition would have to be a holiday dinner party! I love these gatherings because its a great time to be surrounded by a community of family and friends. There’s nothing better than great food, laughs, and taking time to reflect over the past year, all the while being with the ones you love. Also, I’m always down for grabbing a warm latte and driving around with a few people looking at Christmas lights. So fun!- Josiah, Granite Park Facilities Associate

Every year on our way back from visiting my grandparents in Mississippi, we drive through Tyler, TX to experience Santa Land. It’s a Christmas lights display/Christmas store right off the highway in the woods. Ever since I was a little girl, we’ve stopped through Santa Land as a way to kick off the Christmas season! Even as an adult, I get emotional driving through all the beautiful lights in the trees and seeing how its evolved while simultaneously staying the same throughout the years. It’s a tradition so near and dear to my heart! – Brittany, Fort Worth Hospitality Associate

Being raised Muslim, Christmas was never a tradition or a holiday that was celebrated in my family. Growing up in the 90’s, our major holiday, Ramadan, occurred around the same time so it was cool being able to grow up at least feeling like ‘Happy Holidays” pertained to us but with Ramadan moving forward every year we now celebrate in the summertime. Growing up, my brothers and I would visit a well-known neighborhood in our hometown, Arlington, to drive through the Christmas light show that was held by the neighborhood. It was something I looked forward to because whether you celebrate or not, you can always enjoy the over the top lights and decor that come with Christmas. I do enjoy that everyone around just seems to be in a better mood and that there is a nice long break that comes with the holiday season to enjoy with family. I think it is important to emphasize that growing up surrounded by your own traditions is a blessing that some Americans may take for granted. It is bittersweet to be surrounded by such a joyful and hugely celebrated holiday when you are not a part of it, especially when Ramadan rolls around and we get excited at the fact that Walmart just happened to hang a happy Ramadan sign in the store and the Muslim community goes wild. We aren’t able to celebrate in the Middle East where it is a big deal, so I hope that by the time my children grow up Ramadan becomes a more mainstream subject in the US and they can feel more of that celebration surrounding them other than just at home. – Sima, Interior Designer

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Each year when I was a kid our family would get together to see how we could bless someone in need. It was a tradition I look forward to introducing to our family in the future. -Kathleen, DFW Senior Community Manager

Growing up we never celebrated Christmas due to religious beliefs, but now that we have gravitated away from those beliefs Christmas is new to me still. I have only celebrated Christmas 4 times officially, so my only tradition I can consider is something we did without realizing it. It was visiting mi abuelita. Going to visit at her nursing home, watching Charlie Brown and novelas on the tv while we ate the tamales and pozole combo we would bring to her. It would be primarily my mom, sister and I or the whole family which at the time was small. She was parapalegic and confined to her bed which honestly didn’t stop her. She always had her tweety bird Christmas decorations on deck and out on display. Im thankful for those memories and what became a tradition without even realizing it. – Jeremy, Fort Worth Facilities Associate

I have a couple favorite traditions to share: Each year, my family goes to see at least one old classic holiday movie in a vintage theatre (It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas). It is such a special treat to get to see these movies in the big screen with my whole family. For instance, the snow in It’s A Wonderful Life is actually bubbles! Another favorite, cherished tradition is dressing up & going to the symphony for Handel’s Messiah each year. As far as holiday songs go, there’s nothing more epic than the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus! Each year, my family goes to the Fort Worth Christmas tree lighting. We listen to the carolers, warm up with some yummy spiced cider or cocoa, and get to watch the little kids be amazed when we do the countdown & the lights come on. Santa & his elves make an appearance, and it really feels like we are welcoming in Christmas. – Courtney, Austin Senior Community Manager

My favorite part of Christmas morning is waking up to my mom’s homemade gingerbread. I have three siblings, the tradition is whoever wakes up first is in charge of getting everyone else up. We go downstairs and open our stockings and eat mom’s gingerbread. It’s the best!- Ally, Downtown Dallas Hospitality Associate

Every year at Christmas, our entire family (about 20 people) comes to our house for the day to eat food and exchange presents. It’s so much fun to spend time with everyone! – Kinsey, West End Community Manager

Spending time with my mother making vegan tamales and champurado.- Julio, Director of Facilities

This isn’t a holiday tradition because it was so difficult that we decided to fold and never do it again but in the spirit of hope, here goes nothing. My mother is a full blown Italian Catholic from New Jersey. My family on her side settled in Brooklyn when they moved from Italy and had a long history of owning Italian grocery stores. In an effort to connect to our roots, my sophomore year of high school we decided to the Feast of the Seven Fishes. If you know anything about this feast, you know it’s a beast. Traditionally it is a meal featuring seven seafood dishes on Christmas Eve. Since historically Christmas Eve is a vigil and a fasting day for Italian-Americans, the abundance of seafood reflects the observance of abstinence from meat until the feast of Christmas Day itself. My mother and I decide to go to the BEST Italian grocery store in Dallas, Jimmy’s Food Store, to get all the fish because we HAD to be authentic. Well, due to the short notice of bringing this tradition out of retirement (we decided on Christmas Eve), we didn’t have a lot of options. We had to buy canned conch as the seventh fish and let me just tell you, beggars REALLY can’t be choosers. We headed home with fish in tow, mostly canned because we are ammeters, and began to cook. I also want to mention that we started cooking all of seven seafood dishes way too late for them to turn out well. The first dish was but linguine with clam sauce and was pretty good. We had salmon, shrimp, and muscles among other fish but the topping on the cake, the shining star of epic destruction, was the conch. Honestly, who even knows how to cook conch. However, in the spirit of commitment, we had to do it. After googling for hours on how to cook this stuff we ended up throwing parsley and butter on it and eating it straight. After one bit we threw out the whole can and told everyone we forgot the seventh fish. I’m still not sure if anyone knew what happened to the conch but hopefully, they are grateful to us for saving them from so much pain. All that to say, my mom and I are going in for round two this year. Here’s to hoping age, wisdom, and preparation will serve us well. Best wishes from the seven fishes! Kaleigh, West End Hospitality Associate

This is so small, but it’s a quirk I love and cherish. Anytime we came back from an outing, we’d pull into the neighborhood, and my dad would blast a Christmas song and take the long route to get back to our house so that we could look at lights. Every. Time. It didn’t matter if we were in a rush or if this was the second time we’d driven into the neighborhood that evening. We would take the long way home to see the lights and he’d drive SO slowly. I’m giddy thinking about being back home, now with my husband, sitting in the back of my parents’ car as my dad, as always, takes the long route home in our neighborhood to appreciate the beauty of Christmas lights. -Megan Baynham, DFW Senior Community Manager

I have a couple. Every year my husband forces me to watch all the cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies with him, and now I secretly enjoy it! We also go to the TCU Christmas tree lighting every year, which we’ve been doing since we were in college! My most favorite tradition, however, is watching It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. It’s my husband and I’s favorite and we both cry every time and are just reminded of how thankful we are for our little family. We watch it with hot cocoa, popcorn and cookies after the babies are asleep and all the presents are wrapped. It’s so peaceful and a time for us to pause, reflect and have hearts full of gratitude. – Hannah, Social Media Manager

Every year my family goes to see It’s A Wonderful Life at the Palace Theater in Grapevine. It’s such an old school theater with $1 popcorn and old creaky seats – it’s just the best moviegoing experience! After the movie, we walk around Grapevine to get hot cocoa and see all the lights. It’s my very favorite day of the year! – Katy, Director of Hospitality

Back in Mississippi, my family and I go to our family church early on Christmas morning and enjoy the plays and music (which we always end up a part of no matter how hard we try to hilariously avoid eye contact with the host), then we have Christmas Lunch/ Dinner, watch all the classic movies with the addition of Jim Carrey’s Grinch and Christmas Carol, the drive an hour out to the locally famous Minow Bucket Road to see the Christmas on the Lake light show. – Kendra, Granite Park Hospitality Associate

My favorite holiday tradition is the BIG Christmas Eve party that my sister-in-law’s , (Meagan) mom throws every year. It’s a complete rager, but in pajamas! It is where I did my first and LAST keg stand, and it’s where Meagan’s mom did her first Keg stand… So she says.. She’s 62 years old. Just imagine a fancy, grown up, Christmasy version of a college party with your entire family in pajamas.. It’s a grand time. – Jade, Deep Ellum Hospitality Associate

Growing up, I spent the week before every Christmas at my grandma’s house with my siblings, to have a few days with just her before the chaos really started. Then on Christmas Eve, everyone else would join–parents, aunts and uncles, cousins–and we would have this massive dinner that everyone contributed to. At the end of the night, all the kids would curl up in sleeping bags in the living room and sleep in front of the tree. I don’t know how, but the parents would sneak around us in the morning, setting out all of our presents without waking us up. It really kept the magic alive for us kids–the fact that we slept in front of the tree and still couldn’t catch Santa. – Jenna, Downtown Dallas Barista

We hope you enjoyed getting to know some of our staff members a little better! May your holidays be filled with joy, fun, and food!

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