Q&A with the Ellery family about the holiday season


What are some holiday traditions the Ellery family has?
Will Ellery: We decorate our tree collectively. We do Christmas cookies. My wife makes our kids decorate.
Jennifer Ellery: We have a village.
W.E.: A decorative holiday village. Decorative houses, people and trees.
J.E.: We decorate the house, put lights outside and go to church on Christmas Eve.
W.E.: Pretty traditional American standards.
J.E.: The kids do an advent calendar. This year, we also started doing “Elf on a Shelf.” It’s a toy elf that was sent to your home by Santa, and it sits in a specific spot all day long. At night it leaves your house, and it reports to Santa if you’ve been good or bad. It comes back in the middle of the night and hides in a new spot. Kids are not allowed to touch him, or else they are put on the naughty list. So in the morning, the kids have to find it. I don’t know other people who have done it, but it’s a book that you can buy. So I think it’s becoming trendier, but it’s a new holiday item.

When do you put up your decorations?
W.E.: She makes me wait ‘til after Thanksgiving to put them up.
J.E.: He had the Christmas tree up in our garage, because it’s a fake tree.
W.E.: I wanted to make sure that it was all aligned and ready to go.
J.E.: On Halloween.
W.E.: Shortly after Halloween.
J.E.: I had to put my foot down so that it didn’t come in the house.
W.E.: We have reindeer, icicle lights, lights all in the backyard and lights all in the front yard. We have lights on our banister.
J.E.: We have lights all over the inside of our house.
W.E.: We have lights that are garland in our kitchen. You could light our house without using traditional lights. Solely by the Christmas lights, you can read without any additional light. Oh yes, we participate in all of that. Am I guilty of being jolly and happy? Yes, that I am.

On a scale of one to ten how spirited are you?
J.E.: Probably a nine or a ten. We’re not Griswold crazy, but…
W.E.: Without preparing for this interview today, I’m wearing my third Christmas tie of the week on the third day of the week. We are festive. We’re going to go see Santa this Saturday. I like the Clark Griswold reference. We’re not Clark Griswold, but we are as close to that if you could be and still be normal.

So it’s Christmas morning, what does the Ellery house look like?
W.E.: You can’t see the floor.
J.E.: Covered. Everywhere you look, presents.
W.E.: Literally you can’t see the floor. The kids have to find a place to step, in order to not crush something. But at the same time, we try to control chaos. I bring in big trash bags so that as they open up presents, I try to keep up with the wrapping papers and the boxes to keep at least nominally under control. It’s pretty chaotic, in a good way.

How does your Christmas usually end?
W.E.: Exhausted. We open presents all morning, maybe stopping for breakfast.
W.E.: We’ve got four kids with mounds of presents, plus, whatever we have for one another and whatever Santa brings. So it extends into the early afternoon.
J.E.: The kids play with toys and play video games.
W.E.: My wife makes a Christmas dinner, while I try to assemble whatever they received, and that’s complicated usually. That’s about it. It becomes a pleasant family day.

How long do you leave the lights up?
W.E.: We’re actually quite efficient. Honestly, taking down the outside stuff is a function of weather. We’ll turn them off right after Christmas, but taking them down is whenever it’s not minus 100 degrees and windy. Inside we tend to, because we’re teachers, and we’re very busy, use the second week of break to dismantle the Christmas stuff.
J.E.: Before school starts, it’s back to normal. Otherwise we don’t have time to do it. Maybe until spring break or whenever we have time away from school.
W.E.: We teach advanced placement history. We grade all the time, so our free time is pretty much gone after that. But we take it down pretty quickly after Christmas.