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Ouachita Stories


A survey of Ouachita faculty and staff’s Christmas traditions

Christmas traditionsDecember 16, 2020 - Madison Cresswell

Whether you put up the trees after or prior to Thanksgiving, it is finally Christmas time! The essays are submitted, and finals are finally over – we did it! The time has come for hot chocolate, Christmas lights and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Douglass family

The Douglass family at Garvan Gardens

As I thought about my own family memories and holiday festivities, I wanted to ask Ouachita faculty and staff to share a few of their favorite Christmas traditions. Maybe you will find a new holiday tradition for you and your family!

Matt Douglass, lecturer of philosophy, and Angela Douglass, associate professor of physics

On the first Sunday night of Advent, we always attend the hanging of the greens at our home church. We like to drive around town with our daughter, Amelia, to hunt for Christmas lights and inflatables. We also like to go to Garvan Gardens in Hot Springs, Ark., to experience all the lights, music and the model trains. That’s probably our favorite thing to do!

Bill Phelps, assistant to the president for I.T. Services and Facilities Management, and Sherri Phelps, director of human resources

Reed Christmas tree

The Reed family Christmas tree

Our holiday tradition is to head to Branson, Mo., and Silver Dollar City. We have done this trip for years, and it seems like we can’t have Christmas without it. We also live in an old, Southern home that just begs to be decorated, so we usually go all out! Also, everyone always requests their favorite seasonal foods, so we always have pralines, sausage logs, sausage balls and peanut butter fudge on hand.


Doug Reed, associate vice president for academic affairs and Herbert and LaDelle Moody Professor of Pre-Law Studies, and Margaret Reed, professor and periodicals/electronic resources librarian

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is putting up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. We decorate it with Hallmark ornaments we have collected through the years, ornaments Doug’s mother made and photos of our past and present canine children. As for traditions at Ouachita, we love to attend the annual Service of Lessons and Carols and the Ouachita Band Christmas Concert.

Doug Sonheim, professor of English and holder of the Clarence and Bennie Sue Anthony Chair of Bible and Humanities, and Amy Sonheim, professor of English

Rosenthal family

The Rosenthal family

We like Advent, the season when the church prepares for the coming of Jesus through reflection, meditation and waiting. It is a more solemn period involving an element of repentance, similar to lent, to get ready. Our family has typically travelled for the Christmas holidays to be with our parents in Missouri and Colorado. So, the tradition our children remember is driving across Kansas in cold weather!


Tyler Rosenthal, assistant director of communications & marketing, and Anna Rosenthal, discipleship coordinator and Avis Grant assistant

We are big fans of Thanksgiving and Christmas in the cafeteria with students! This year, we will be making new traditions with our son, Graham, for his first Christmas. We are looking forward to taking him on walks in the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. He is already loving listening to Tyler play Christmas music on the piano at home. It will be so special to see Christmas through his eyes! While we travel to our families’ houses, we also like to fill out Jennie Allen’s Dream Guide, which helps us review the year and make goals for the new year.



Zimny Christmas cookies

The Zimny family's Christmas cookies

René Zimny, assistant professor of Art and Design, and Brooke Zimny, assistant to the president for communications & marketing

Our family combines a variety of cultural holiday traditions. Brooke is an Arkansas native, but René is from Namibia and has German, African and British heritage. When we are celebrating in Arkansas, some of our favorite things are decorating the Christmas tree and cookies while listening to Christmas music, exploring the area’s Christmas lights and attending a Christmas Eve candlelight service. When we’re in Namibia, the celebrations look a little different. Christmas gifts are opened on Christmas Eve, and Christmas day is spent at the beach since it’s summer there in December.



Madison CresswellBy Madison Cresswell, a senior communications & media/strategic communications and political science double major from North Little Rock, Ark.




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