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Goodbye, Holipalooza

A History of post-Silent Night traditions with the president and first lady

By Annabelle Blair | Contributor

The Habeckers survey a gingerbread house in Dec. 2010

The Habeckers survey a gingerbread house in Dec. 2010

Friends and fans will flock to the Euler Atrium following Silent Night on Friday for the last “Habecker’s Holipalooza,” an annual event celebrating cherished Christmas traditions with the president and first lady.

With each successive president, the post-game party takes on a new flavor as well as a new name.

This year’s festivities include traditional cookie decorating, puppy chow and a hot chocolate bar with peppermint sticks, chocolate chips and whipped cream condiments. Guests are invited to release Silent Night’s pent-up energy on a kid-friendly “ice” rink with socks for skates, intended to replace games from previous years. A photo and video booth offers the opportunity to record memories and personal ruminations from the Habeckers’ time at Taylor. Attendees can decorate ornaments as thank-you notes, which will eventually be presented to Habecker and Mary Lou.

Live performances will provide background music during the evening. Performers include junior Austin Lindner, freshman Luke Borchelt, freshman Asher Tose, freshman Ye-ram Yun and band, junior Deanna Menke and others. However, the Night Lights quartet, featuring Habecker, is expected to steal the show. Sam Moore, junior class president, will make an appearance as “Samta” and act as emcee for the night.

The move from the DC to Euler’s Atrium reflects a desire to create an environment more conducive to space limitations and student needs. “We’re going to create—instead of a carnival atmosphere—more of a cozy, Christmas atmosphere. Euler gives us a unique opportunity to do that,” said Moore.

Because “Holipalooza” is essentially the president and first lady’s event, ICC leadership wants the Habeckers to be the main focus of the evening.

“We want it to be a really good celebration,” said Margaret Gruendyke, junior class secretary. “We don’t want it to be a sad . . . thing, but we really want to celebrate the Habeckers’ time here and have them go out with a bang, while also incorporating some tradition.”

The night climaxes with a reading of the Christmas story from the president, according to Stutzman.

During his presidency, Kesler often read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. However, the trend in recent years has been to read “The Night Before Finals,” which Habecker will finish out Friday’s festivities with.

Although traditions have changed throughout the years, Jesse Stutzman, senior class vice president, emphasizes the strong tradition that has remained.

Although it has since become an elaborate event, the post-basketball home game celebration was started by President Jay Kesler and First Lady Janie as a pajama party during Kesler’s first year as Taylor president in 1985, according to Kesler.

The Echo’s 1987 December issue contains the first (known) written mention of the event. Referred to as “Jay’s Christmas Special,” the event morphed into “Dr. G’s Christmas Fandango” during Dr. David Gyertson’s presidency, and “Habecker’s Holipalooza” with President Eugene Habecker’s inauguration.

No matter the small divergences since 1985, 30 years later, students still curl up at the feet of a pj-clad president to hear a Christmas story from years past.

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