Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays: 6 Stories From Residents

Posted on: April 21, 2022

Otterbein Lebanon residents submitted their favorite holiday stories and memories to share this season. Settle in and read on for a dose of holiday cheer!


Shared by Barb and Harold P.

The Renaissance Feast at Otterbein Lebanon was a marvelous tradition held a few days after Christmas to celebrate Epiphany. Talented and resourceful residents planned the drama and dinner…from trumpeters to flaming pudding! It took months to sew exquisite costumes, stage the Old English “castle,” rehearse choral music, and make culinary preparations.

Working together, we celebrated the birth of Christ with joy and hope. The happiest memory is of the entire cast, crew, and guests raising their glasses to exclaim “Wassail,” and later joining in singing “Silent Night” as we quietly followed the Christ candle into the waiting world.

A Christmas Surprise

Shared by Darlene P.

As a little girl of four or five, I lived on a farm with my family. I loved being out in the barn with my dad and all the animals. We owned horses, cows, calves, cats, chickens, and pigs.

On Christmas Eve, so much excitement filled the air. I couldn’t wait for Santa to come. My dad hung a wreath on the barn door which looked so festive as my dad, mom, and I went into the barn to milk the cows for the night. We hurried because a snowstorm loomed and dad wanted to be done and in the house before it started snowing.

While my parents milked, I played with my pet cats, Butler and Bentley. They felt so warm and cuddly. I also had a pet cow named Millie, a brown Swiss with the biggest, most beautiful eyes. In the summertime, my job was bringing the cows in from the pasture and sometimes I rode on her back while bringing them to the barn. Sometimes my dad would put a red ribbon in her long tail and she looked so sassy when she whooshed it back and forth.

Finally, with chores completed, we could go back to the house to have some cookies and fresh milk. But when dad opened the barn door, we saw how much it snowed; so much, we couldn’t see the house. We didn’t know where it was. My dad said we would have to sleep in the barn that night. Sadness surrounded me because I wondered how Santa would find us. How would he see where our house was?

My dad made a bed for me in a box stall with mounds of straw on the floor and a horse blanket for a cover. When my cats curled up by me, I stayed toasty warm, but I was still scared Santa couldn’t find us.

I tried to remember my Mom telling me that this was the night that baby Jesus was born, that this night was very important, that something special always happened. But I just couldn’t stop thinking about how Santa would find me – how would he know where to find our house? I cried myself to sleep just thinking about it.

When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I saw was a big beautiful Christmas tree right in the middle of the barn with presents all around. There was a white angel on top of the tree, with colored lights and snow on the branches and icicles hanging so close to glass ornaments, they shimmered in the lantern light.

The tree gave off a soft glow, so warm and caring. It seemed like the whole barn was engulfed in radiance. Cows lay next to the tree chewing their cud looking very peaceful, while the horses quietly munched on their hay and the chickens pecked at corn in the managers.

A baby calf lay in the box stall next to me and I knew a miracle had happened. I was filled with awe even at my young age. I knew something special had taken place, something I didn’t understand, but I knew something wonderful happened. I got up and danced and danced all around the tree calling for mom and dad to come to see what has happened during the night. Santa DID find our house; I was so excited and happy I couldn’t stop dancing.

I asked my dad how Santa found our house with so much snow on the ground. He told me to peek outside and then I saw them: Hoof prints of Santa’s reindeer! Wow, was I ever surprised. I knew Santa could go anywhere. I hugged and kissed my dad telling him how happy I felt. Santa left a warm cap for my dad, a scarf and mittens for my mom, and a puppy for me. I named her BaileyRose.

I believed in miracles then and still do, Thank you, Jesus.

Christmas Memories

Shared by Kathy R.

In 1978, our Loveland, Ohio, Girl Scout Troop adopted a grandfather, Mr. Ed Manning. Many of the girls had lost grandparents or moved far from them. For Christmas, the troop decorated his house and Christmas tree, wrapped his gifts for his family, and held a dinner in his honor at my house.

The girls dressed up, brought gifts for him, and made covered dishes. After a delicious dinner, we all settled in to hear Mr. Manning’s stories. The scouts were fascinated by his tales of Christmases many years ago and were especially curious about his description of the Christmas tree decorated with real candles and the horse-hitched wagon trips.

The girls giggled and were eager for him to open their gifts which included aftershave, cake, candy, cookies, bread, and handkerchiefs. Mr. Manning was so pleased with the dinner, gifts, and fellowship that he went home a very happy man. The scouts were delighted with their goodwill.

From about 1970 to 2000, my husband’s sister taught kindergarten at an inner-city Cincinnati school that was attended by mostly poor children. Our family bought treats and athletic socks for the children in her class for Christmas. She lived in Florence, Ky., and it was interesting how we delivered these gifts to her during this busy holiday season.

The socks were always wrapped in white tissue paper decorated with bright Christmas stickers. The kids wore these socks for their Christmas program. One year I bought adult size socks by mistake so these were above the knees! The kids didn’t care. They kept their legs warm. Sometimes the socks were wrapped in our car on the way from Loveland to Florence. Sometimes we met his sister halfway to give them to her or someone else going that way took them for us. The class appreciated whatever was given to them.

Little Blue Wagon

Shared by Dick B.

Back in the mid ’70s, our five-year-old daughter announced that she was going to tell Santa she wanted a wagon to transport her dolls around the house because she couldn’t carry them all at once. But she didn’t want any ordinary red wagon: she wanted a blue one and insisted that to Santa the following day.

So I went on a search to many stores, and to my dismay, there was no such thing as a blue wagon. However, being a good daddy, my precious little girl was not going to be disappointed.
I spent the next three nights before Christmas painting a red wagon I had bought at Sears a bright blue.

A lot of work I thought, but on Christmas morning when I saw the look on her face of sheer delight and joy I knew it was all worth it.


Shared by Ellie B.

It was Sarah’s first Christmas without her dad. And I was now a single mother with a beginning teacher’s salary. How could I make this a special Christmas for her?

Sarah loved panda bears — a fact that popped out at me when I found a pattern in a women’s magazine to make a panda bear. I was sure I could do it. The pattern was drawn on a graph which I enlarged. And I do mean enlarged.

Every day after dinner, I disappeared into my sewing area in the basement. I told her that I was making a surprise for her for Christmas. She was strictly forbidden from coming down. It took a couple of weeks and nine bags of stuffing, but finally it was accomplished. The only thing I could come up with to wrap it in was a green paper tablecloth. And so it sat, not under, but beside the tree on Christmas morning.

She saved the huge green present for last. When she finally opened it, the bright-eyes and huge grin told me all I needed. It was a hit. After carting it around to every place in the house, she settled down on the floor in the living room with her back against the bear, a happy 9-year-old.

Then she said, “But, Mommy, where is the gift you were making for me?”

P.S. Her name is Amanda Sandra Panda. She has been through college and she now sits in the corner of a nursery – waiting.


Shared by Lynn, “Popcorn.”

Lynn “Popcorn,” now an Otterbein resident, was already familiar with the community when he moved in. He, his brother, and his sister had lived there as children in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, when Otterbein was still a children’s home.

“We always did have a good Christmas here,” he said.

Popcorn got his nickname as a high schooler after he left Otterbein. He popped corn during basketball games, and the name stuck for all those years.

Popcorn’s extensive collection of Otterbein memorabilia includes this article from the 1967 edition of the Midwest Home News.

 Article from 1967 Midwest Home News magazine

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