An artificial tree stands tall in Judy Culque’s living room with a toy train track surrounding it. The aroma of homemade hot chocolate fills the air as a Peruvian fruit cake sits on the kitchen counter. It is the most wonderful time of the year again for Culque’s family when everyone exudes the spirit of Christmas through the interior and exterior of their home in Clifton, New Jersey.
“Christmas is a time to feel blessed and be surrounded by family,” said Culque, a junior psychology major.
Culque is a part-time student by day and a loving mother and wife by night. Every year, she looks forward to celebrating the holiday season with her husband Jose Ore, her mother-in-law Maria Vilchez and her two sons 11-year-old Jeremy and 5-year-old Ethan.
Ore, a merchandiser for Coca-Cola, and Culque have been together for 22 years. For them, Christmas is a spectacular occasion because it is a time that they can come together as a team to decorate their house and tree.
Culque stated that her love for Christmas started in her home country of Peru. As a young girl, she remembers using sparklers in her hand to create little circles as well as engaging in Christmas traditions. Peruvians’ Christmas traditions are similar to those in the U.S. with the exchange of gift giving and decorating a tree. However, now that she is in the U.S., she also brings out a statue of baby Jesus to place next to their Christmas tree or on top of the living room table.
In the past, Culque’s family has purchased real trees from Home Depot. However, since the trees quickly started to dry by Christmas time, they decided to use a fake one for the second consecutive year. They reuse the same decorations from previous years such as the children’s homemade ornaments from school. Ethan was also chosen to place the star on top of the tree, which is an honor given to him as the youngest sibling.
The family goes to their photographer Edwin Oliva, who determines a Christmas-themed photo shoot for their holiday pictures.
Last year’s theme of the holiday photo consisted of a large red bike with ornaments around the room as the family dressed in blue jeans and red plaid shirts. This year’s theme was “Christmas In Candyland,” with the family hanging candy canes on their Christmas tree.
Judy also mentions that her oldest son Jeremy knows the truth about Santa Claus but hopes that he will not reveal it to his younger brother Ethan. Eventually, as Ethan gets older, she hopes that he will discover the truth on his own.
“Ethan is always telling me, ‘Mom we should get milk and cookies for Santa,'” Culque said.
While Ethan might not know the truth about Santa Claus, both he and his brother made a wish list for Christmas this year.
“For Christmas, I want a ‘Funtime Freddy’ or ‘Minecraft’ plushie,” Jeremy said. “I love Legos too because I love to be creative in making cars and robots. A cardboard game is cool too to play with the family.”
Jeremy also revealed that he believes that both he and Ethan have been equally naughty and nice. They have had their moments of fighting and getting into trouble together.
On Ethan’s Christmas list, he asked Santa for a “Super Mario Audacity” portable game and a few “Paw Patrol” toys. Culque and Ore want to try to make sure “Santa Claus” brings both their sons the toys that they so desperately want. Their sons are always happier with a pair of toys than with money or clothes.
“One time, Ethan got a gift card [from Santa Claus] and started crying when other kids at day care were getting toys,” Culque said.
However, for this family, it is more than just wanting to make their sons happy. It is about the reactions of their sons as they receive the gifts, too.
“To me, it does not matter the quality of the toy as long as they get one,” Ore said. “Their expressions are priceless.”