Faith and family.
That’s what matters most at Christmas to Denton residents who were asked to share their favorite Christmas memories and what the holiday means to them.
Food is another popular holiday feature. And travel. And, for those who can enjoy it, a little time off work.
Here are the thoughts they shared with the Denton Record-Chronicle on the Christmas season.
A family celebration
For Denton fire Capt. David Boots of Fire Station No. 3, this is a rare Christmas: His shift was off on Christmas Eve and is off Christmas Day.
When his shift is in the station house on Christmas, it creates a lasting memory for all families involved.
“We cook up a nice meal here at the station and invite the families up to celebrate with us since it is usually a pretty slow day for us,” Boots said. “It’s like one large extended family enjoying time together playing games and watching Christmas movies.”
He said all the families just “make a day out of it” and have a great time.
But Boots doesn’t hesitate when asked what Christmas means to him.
“I’m a believer,” he said. “Jesus is the savior of the world and Christians look at Christmas and Easter as two of the most important days of the whole year.”
Denton County Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell said she feels blessed to be able to help provide for her family during the Christmas season. She recalled growing up and getting clothes as hand-me-downs and from second-hand stores and community outreach organizations.
“I am able to give back to those types of charitable organizations that made a difference in my life,” she said. “I am grateful the Lord has blessed me that I am able to give back to others. I am blessed with my children and grandchildren and family and good friends. … I’m just blessed.”
Denton County Transportation Authority president Jim Cline said for him, Christmas has to do with being with family, keeping up with relatives and lots of food.
And, not surprisingly, it also means travel.
“One of the things our family does, we go to California and we get to see another part of the country as well as seeing family, so that is one of the things that stands out to me,” Cline said.
Christmas times three
The mother of triplets, Jennifer McAlister of Denton has watched her children grow up fast as they inspired each other to walk, talk and accomplish other milestones on the early side. Now that they are second-graders, she wondered whether this year would be the year they would stop believing.
“I asked them whether they had any questions about Santa Claus,” McAlister said. “They all said, ‘As long as we believe, then he’s real.’”
Because the children have classmates who don’t believe, including some who have never believed, she said her children are learning that people are different.
This is also the first year the children have learned how to pick out gifts for each other based on their passions and what they would like each other to have, she said.
And they are helping out with the big family meal by preparing the stuffing and the apple pies.
“For me, the tradition has always been cooking with family,” McAlister said.
Treasure loved ones
Denton police Officer Orlando Hinojosa said family traditions are something he and his wife cherish at Christmas.
Their children — Lauren, 23, and Chase, 20 — have been taking their photo with Santa since they were born.
“I hope they continue that Hinojosa tradition when they start their families,” he said.
Hinojosa says the focus of the holidays is sometimes all about presents when it should be about the ones you love.
Stop and remember the true meaning of Christmas, he said.
“Spend time with your friends and family,” he said.
Until about 18 months ago, Joel Carter had a job as an award-winning toy maker that required a lot of travel, including trips to China.
Then, when he was home, he commuted 75 miles each way to work every day.
Today, he has lost his job and suffered some health problems, but he still feels the glass is more than half full, he said.
“When you really look at your problems and break them down, they’re really first-world problems,” Carter said.
He is still adjusting to a new job that allows him to work at home.
“There’s no conversation around the water cooler,” he notes.
But he’s thankful for his commute, which he describes as a trek from the bedroom to the kitchen for a cup of coffee on the way to his study.
“It’s great not globetrotting and being closer to home,” Carter said. “We’re in a much better place as a family.”
A first Christmas
Denton County Sheriff William Travis said his fondest Christmas memory is his daughter’s first Christmas.
His daughter, Dani, now a 16-year-old high school student, celebrated her first Christmas in 1997 and it meant the world to him, Travis said.
He said, however, that like fellow Christians around the world, celebrating the birth of Jesus is the reason for the season and why he holds the holiday so dear to his heart to this day.
A higher gift
Denton police Officer Shane Kizer said that over the years he has been blessed with many great Christmas memories, including the year he received his first bicycle.
Watching his family, however, especially his children’s joy as they receive their gifts, is what he cherishes most.
“It reminds me of the most precious gift I’ve received and the joy it brings: the forgiveness of my sins and salvation I received from Christ Jesus,” Kizer said. “And that is what Christmas means to me.”
Staff writers Megan Gray, Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe and Bj Lewis contributed to this story.