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Wyoming Stories: Food and friends on Christmas Day

Chelsea Biondolillo


This holiday season, the Wyoming Public Radio news team is sharing stories about memories and traditions that stand out to them. In this piece, reporter Chelsea Biondolillo tells us about her family's tradition of welcoming those without anywhere else to go.

CHELSEA BIONDOLILLO: My family lives in Phoenix AZ, where a balmy 55 degrees is expected on Christmas Day. But our traditions started in Oregon, where my sister and I were born.

I was able to talk with my mother, Darlene, by phone about two of our most important traditions: fattening up the neighbors and extending our family to friends in need.

CHELSEA: How many pounds of much fudge do you make every year for Christmas?

DARLENE BIONDOLILLO:  Probably seventy pounds.

CHELSEA: She also makes cookies, and my stepdad bottles wine. Pretty much everyone they have ever met gets a plate.

DARLENE: We include all of the neighbors, everyone we know, always get a plate of fudge, cookies, and a bottle of wine… you know, the mail… our mail carrier, people that we see and do business with on a regular basis are part of our Christmas extended family.

CHELSEA: It’s not just cookies, however. Holiday dinners in my family are a big deal, and my parents make sure that anyone who needs a seat has one.

In high school, my sister and I could always bring over friends who were having trouble in their own homes… for example, a friend told her family she was gay and that year she wasn’t welcome at her own Christmas dinner—so she celebrated with us.

As we grew older, our guests became coworkers or neighbors who might otherwise be alone. For my mother, this isn’t just an act of altruism, but really symbolizes what this season is all about.

DARLENE: This is the time of year that it is important to connect with people, and giving our family a chance to connect with lots of different people enriches everyone, I believe.

CHELSEA: I also spoke with my little sister, Brianne, who lives in Phoenix with her two young sons. She says this tradition of generosity is an important example for her boys. She also says the full house helps, now that much of our extended family lives far away.

BRIANNE PACHECO: I think growing up in our giant family in Oregon and then breaking off from them when we did move out of state… it’s nice to be able to have a big holiday, even if it’s not all of our family—it doesn’t matter because at that time, it really is, is family.

CHELSEA: And she’s right, in our house it just wouldn’t be Christmas without some new faces around the table. 

Chelsea Biondolillo is originally from Portland, Oregon and comes to Laramie by way of several southern cities, including New Orleans, Austin, and Phoenix. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Wyoming in creative nonfiction and environmental studies and her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Creative Nonfiction, Phoebe, DIAGRAM, Birding, and others. Chelsea loves plants, birds, and rocks, and tries to spend as much time as she can around them.
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