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Intellect

BYU archive houses a wealth of Christmas traditions

Christmas traditions are abundant throughout the United States, and those who are looking to start their own Christmas customs could find an array of archived ideas in the Harold B. Lee Library L. Tom Perry Special Collections section.

Kristi Bell, curator of the William A. Wilson Folklore Archives, recently discussed accounts of various Christmas traditions that are archived in the library.

"It's my favorite holiday, because Christmas abounds with different traditions," Bell said. "Christmas is something people love and is something they celebrate in different ways."

Christmas is a perfect opportunity to celebrate a family's cultural heritage, with such activities as cooking certain foods.

A common Christmas custom archived is children receiving pajamas on Christmas Eve, she said. "One family goes to the mall in their matching pajamas to have pictures taken," she said.

"Another family places an ornament on the tree after Christmas so that Christmas will come again. This also symbolizes that Christ will come again," Bell said.

One of the most unusual traditions Bell has come across is one in which a divorced couple continues to get the whole family together Christmas Eve to have a water gun fight in the house.

Merging Christmas traditions in a marriage, however, can present problems, said Bell, who told of a couple--one spouse English, one German--whose different holiday customs caused contention every year in the home. "They even considered getting a divorce because the contention was so great," she said.

Bell noted the experiences of a family whose father was from Scandinavia. "He set all the traditions for Christmas and would do the cooking for Christmas. This is uncommon especially in our culture where the mother usually sets the traditions," she said.

Archivists were finding so much material on Christmas traditions that Bell had to begin archiving the information into subcategories. Some of the subcategories of Christmas traditions archived include Christmas trees, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and giving to others.

BYU's folklore archive started out as a stack of boxes in BYU professor William A. Wilson's office and in 1999 became a part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections section in the library.

The folklore archives mostly consist of work done by students. Students turn in projects that explore different folklore found throughout the world. The archives consist of mostly U.S. folklore.

Most people think of folklore as traditions from the past or from foreign countries, but folklore is anything that people make, do and say, Bell said.

"We are surrounded by folklore, and even the university community is filled with folklore," she said.

Writer: Rebekah Hanson

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