Holiday traditions at ISU

Sarah Gonzalez

Iowa State’s holiday traditions offer plenty of options to start this season before heading home for break.

From the lighting of the holiday tree on Central Campus to sleigh rides and poinsettia sales, Iowa State provides traditions to get students and faculty in the season’s spirit.

Jingle Jog

The Freshmen Council’s Annual Andy Albright Jingle Jog is one part of the annual WinterFest. This year’s Jingle Jog will take place at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3. Students can register through AccessPlus and can charge the $15 registration fee to their U-Bill. Visit the Freshmen Council website for more information about registration and check-in.


WinterFest is a campus event open to all Ames and campus communities. This year’s WinterFest is from 5 to 11 p.m. Dec. 3. The illumination ceremony is the main event of WinterFest. The lighting of Iowa State’s holiday tree in front of Curtiss Hall is the official ring-in of the holiday season for the ISU community.

Other festivities to enjoy are the campus sleigh rides, cookie decorating and, of course, cookie eating in the Memorial Union. Reiman Gardens displays a different theme every year in its indoor conservatory. This year’s theme is “Shiny and Bright,” featuring shiny gazing balls displayed in a holiday theme. Other events at Reiman Gardens include holiday photos, sustainable gift-wrapping workshops and wreath-making. The events and display theme are featured from Nov. 27 to Dec. 18.

Outside of the ISU campus, each student and faculty member has his or her own holiday traditions. Luke Roling, president of the Government of the Student Body, and Bill Fennelly, ISU women’s basketball coach, shared some of theirs.

Luke Roling, GSB president

Roling’s family has a tradition of exchanging quirky gifts for Christmas.

“They’re mostly inside jokes,” he said. “The strange things that come out of our house during Christmastime are hard to explain to people.”

Roling’s large family — his mom is from a family of six children and his dad the oldest of 11 — keeps food and family the main attraction of every holiday. However, Roling recognizes the constant and irreplaceable tradition of driving the same route to Grandpa’s every year.

“As annoying as it is, we always take the same road, and my dad tells the same narrative every year,” he said. “One year he was sick and wasn’t with us, and we definitely all noticed, so we had to give him a call and make him give us that narrative.”

Bill Fennelly, ISU women’s basketball coach

Fennelly’s Christmas holiday is a short one due to the busy basketball season.

“We have two completely free days, but on [Dec.] 26, we’re back to practicing,” he said.

However, his family makes sure to carve out two important days free for holiday celebrations.

“Christmas Day and Christmas Eve are designated non-basketball days,” he said. “Of course, we can watch the games on TV, but I’m not allowed to bring my briefcase home.”

The basketball team also celebrates together before rushing home to catch some quality time with their families. The team also does a fundraiser every year. Whether it’s collecting food, clothing or organizing a toy drive, the women’s basketball team is guaranteed to make a community contribution.

“We all say we try to focus on faith and family year-round, but sometimes it gets difficult,” Fennelly said. “But we really make a conscious effort during the holiday season.”