On this Christmas Eve, the Saint Leo University community joins in the anticipation and celebration of the birth of Christ. We asked several students who participate in University Ministry as well as the director of the University Ministry Department to share what Christmas means to them as well as how they spend the holiday.
“Christmas means love to me,” said Emily Luecke, a senior who is majoring in communications - digital communications. “Love for the birth of Jesus, love for spending time with my family, love for doing the things I loved as a kid. The nostalgia that comes with the Christmas season is something I can't quite put into words; it just makes me feel love for everything.
“One of my favorite traditions is that on Christmas Eve my family and I make French hot chocolate and watch the Polar Express by the fire, then end the night by going to midnight Mass,” she continued. “It's something we've done since I was a little girl, and I always look forward to that moment every Christmas. So for me, Christmas means love.”
“To me, Christmas involves three things: family, food, and faith,” Brandon Sillen said.
“The Christmas season inevitably includes family gatherings. A typical Christmas gathering is seeing extended family, embracing close ones, and enjoying each other's company,” continued the senior religious studies major. “Coming from a big family stretched across several states and miles, Christmas is usually the only time I see certain family members. Good food is always a part of Christmas for me. People taking time out of their day to cook or bake delicious meals for others is a special part of the season.”
And topping the list for Sillen is his faith.
“Most importantly my faith is integral to Christmas,” he said. “It is a good reminder of why we celebrate. It has nothing to do with the gifts or sales. It is all about Jesus and the preparation of ourselves for His arrival. The most comforting part of the season is to re-center my life to Christ despite all the craziness the holidays provide.”
Sophomore biology major Larissa Polanco said, “Christmas means to me the celebration of Christ, and the gift that God gave to the world, His one and only Son. As a Catholic, I celebrate by going to Mass and having a family dinner as a representation of God’s gift to us. Christmastime is a time of family sharing and family unity.
“My family and I share a special traditional meal and special memories of past Christmases,” Polanco continued. “One of my favorite memories is going to midnight Mass with a statue of baby Jesus in my arms.”
Something else that is special to her is that her mom always asks each family member “what Christmas means to each of them.
“For me, Christmas is a reminder to love,” said Alicia Luecke, a senior majoring in marketing, who is Emily’s twin sister, and Brandon’s fiancée. “Our Lord was born into this world out of love for humanity and serves as a living reminder that we need to love others as we love ourselves.
“Christmas is full of these reminders: the nativity, giving gifts to loved ones, making donations, visiting family members, cooking and baking for others,” she continued. “These are all acts of love, and Christmas is the perfect time to remind ourselves of that. It's full of love and happiness. It's the perfect way to end the year, no matter what kind of year we've had, and reset ourselves for a fresh start in the new year!
Junior social work major and Honors Program student Lili Kozlowski cited faith as what Christmas means to her.
"The season of Advent is a time of waiting and anticipation for the birth of Jesus Christ,” Kozlowski said. “On Christmas Day, we rejoice because our Savior is born and foreshadows to His second coming!"
For Maeve Kiley, a sophomore English major, “Christmas is the most important time of year for me. It is the birth of my Messiah and the celebration of everything I value: religion, family, friends, and goodwill toward all men!
“It is a time of love and forgiveness so I try my hardest to embody those virtues every Christmas season as well as year-round because God sent his Son to earth for all people,” she added.
“As both the director of University Ministry and a father of four, the significance of Christmas to my family and I is in the season’s customs and traditions, such as trimming the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts, baking cookies, and devoting quality time with loved ones,” said Kevin Floyd, who also is an alumnus, earning his bachelor’s in criminal justice from Saint Leo in 2015. “Moreover, Christmas holds immense importance in our family primarily because it marks the birth of Jesus Christ.
“The true meaning of Christmas serves as a poignant reminder to actively exhibit acts of generosity, kindness, and forgiveness toward others, thereby sharing the true essence of God's love and blessings with others.”