UMD students share their weird family traditions

By Maria Volkova
For Unwind magazine

In a snow-filled Moscow, in an apartment cozily hidden in the city center, the clock hanging on Alyona Platonova’s wall is slowly approaching midnight. Soon it will be New Year’s in Moscow.

Platonova, a senior government and politics major, returns to Moscow every year to celebrate New Year’s with her family.

She is among a handful of students at the University of Maryland that have “weird,” or uncommon family traditions around the holidays.

Platonova said that on New Year’s Eve, everyone gathers around the kitchen table and turns on the television, which broadcasts the Kremlin clock.

“When the Kremlin clock hits midnight, it starts ringing 12 times,” Platonov said. “In between this time and the playing of the Russian anthem, which comes on right after, we all take a piece of paper, write down our heartfelt desires and burn the paper.”

She continued, “After burning the paper, we throw the ash into champagne and fully drink the champagne until nothing remains.”

Platonova mentioned she and her family believe by drinking the ashes, the wishes that they wrote down would have a greater chance of coming true.

“This is almost a ritual for us, and it gives all of us hope that our wishes will come true because we symbolically ingest them,” she said. “These wishes become an actual part of us.”

Brittany Hamson, a junior criminology and criminal justice major, explains her uncle’s peculiar habit during Christmas time.

“My uncle has seven nieces and nephews, including me,” she said. “Each Christmas, he gives out seven white, blank envelops and in each envelope there is $50.”

Photo by Gillian Vesely/Unwind
Photo by Gillian Vesely/Unwind

To add a twist, one of the seven envelopes has something a little extra.

“My uncle gives his favorite niece or nephew of the year an extra dollar,” Hamson said.

In addition to the extra dollar, Hamson’s uncle also takes a photograph of his favorite niece or nephew and hangs the photograph on his jukebox.  Hamson says this is the award of the highest caliber.

“This has been going on for over 10 years,” Hamson said. “We don’t even think that it’s weird anymore because we are so used to it.”

Hamson adds that in the past couple of years, the youngest niece of the family has been winning.

Clara Bryant, a sophomore math major and a triplet in her family, celebrates Thanksgiving by huddling with her family on Thanksgiving morning and watching the Macy’s parade.

And while this seems like a normal tradition, the food accompaniment while watching the parade is a little unusual.

“My mom makes a jello concoction every year with ginger ale and celery,” Bryant said.

Although the combination may seem strange, Bryant says her family is crazy about this recipe, and every Thanksgiving morning must be started with this refreshing dish.


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