Austin celebrates holiday season

Published 11:43 am Friday, December 23, 2011

How does Austin celebrate the holidays?

The Herald asked local officials and residents how they plan to spend Christmas by asking three questions:

1. What are your family’s tradition for Christmas and Christmas Eve?

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2. What is the best gift you’ve ever given or received?

3. What is your favorite Christmas movie or song?


Heidi Stegenga Murray

Heidi Stegenga Murray

Tourism Coordinator, Austin CVB

Christmas Traditions: “My family always spends Christmas Eve at my Grandparents house, and Christmas Day at home. With my daughter having her first Christmas this year, I’m so excited to carry on our traditions and start some of our own.”

Favorite gifts: “When I was little, my great uncle dressed as Santa and came to my Grandparents to deliver gifts for my sister and I. I remember being skeptical that it was the “real” Santa, but when I opened my American Girl doll — exactly what I had asked for — I knew it had to be the real deal.”

Favorite movie/song: “‘Home Alone’ and ‘Elf’ are such classic Christmas movies that it doesn’t even have to be the holidays to watch them. My top three Christmas songs in no particular order would be ‘Twist of the Magi’ by Rascal Flatts and Shedaisy/Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ and ‘O Holy Night.’”


Marian Clennon

Marian Clennon

Austin City Council

Christmas Traditions: “When we were kids at home, we would have our evening meal and then my parents would make us wash the dishes before we could open our presents. We didn’t figure out for a long time that if we used paper plates, we could open the presents sooner.”

Favorite gifts: “My most memorable gift was a bicycle. I was probably 8- or 9-years-old.”

Favorite movie/song: “‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is my favorite movie. My favorite song is ‘Mary Did You Know.’”


Sheriff Terese Amazi

Terese Amazi


Christmas Traditions: “We go to church Christmas Eve. Then return and bake enchiladas for Christmas Eve dinner, with all the fixings. Wayne’s mother always brings her star Jell-O salad for holidays. We also have a lot of cookies and baked treats. Christmas dinner time depends on whether Wayne is working or not. We have turkey and ham with all the trimmings.”

Favorite gifts: “The most memorable gift I received was a puppy when I was 10 years old. Her name was Ginger. She was a German Sheppard and Coon Hound cross.”

Favorite movie/song: “My favorite holiday movie is ‘While You Were Sleeping’ starring Sandra Bullock. My favorite Christmas song is ‘Silent Night.’”


Danielle Vogel

Danielle Vogel

Christmas traditions: “My family always makes homemade chicken noodle soup. We attend the service together, and we don’t get to open any gifts until after the service.”

Favorite gift: “My best gift I’ve ever received was my dog.”

Favorite movie: “My favorite Christmas movie is ‘White Christmas.’ It’s not Christmas until you watch ‘White Christmas.’”


Marilee Benson

The Rev. Marilee Benson

Christmas traditions: “Christmas Eve dinner, potatoes, sausage and pancakes and going to the latest Christmas Eve service, wherever we happen to be.”

Favorite gift: “Best Christmas gift was a phonograph when I was about eight years old.”

Favorite song: “My favorite song at Christmas is ‘For Unto Us a ‘Child is Born.’”


Shannon Langan

Shannon Langan

Christmas traditions: Food with relatives on both sides, and then we open Christmas presents on my mom’s side on Christmas Eve and on my dad’s side on Christmas day.”

Favorite gift: “Relaxation supplies like bath soaps. That always goes over well. Everybody needs to relax.”

Favorite song and movie: “‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’ — both of them. I think it’s the first Christmas movie I ever remember watching.”


Tonya Novak

Tonya Novak

Christmas traditions: I spend Christmas Eve with my in-laws every year. That’s been a tradition since I married my husband. We always spend Christmas day with my mom, and we have the traditional Christmas dinner.”

Favorite gift: “I wouldn’t say I have any special gifts, but any gifts that are given from the heart are special, just because they have much more meaning. The greatest gift I’ve ever received, my daughter was born one day late, the day after Christmas, 21 years ago.”

Favorite song: “My favorite Christmas song is ‘Silent Night.’”


Samantha Novak

Samantha Novak

Christmas traditions: “Me and my brother always wake up every Christmas and wake my parents because they are still sleeping.”

Favorite gift: “My favorite gift I ever got was my car.”

Favorite movie: “‘Jingle all the Way,’ with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Me and my brother just grew up watching it and just loved it because it was funny.”


Jacob Howton

Jacob Howton

Christmas traditions: “Every Christmas eve we go to my grandparents’ house. My entire family comes, aunts, uncles, cousins, extended family.”

Favorite gift: “When I was six, my parents gave me a little dirt bike for Christmas.”

Favorite song: “We’ll go with ‘Frosty the Snowman.’ I’ve always hated Christmas music.”