By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – Tasha Dunn and her family have many longtime Christmas traditions.
Watching movie classics “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” is near the top. Baking – sugar cookie cutouts with colored frosting, scotcheroo bars and peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s Kisses in the middle – is another.
“I love baking with my stepson, Henry, and my husband, Ben,” said Dunn. “I baked with my mom and grandma growing up, so I’ve kind of taken on that tradition and kept it going.”
But there’s one memorable holiday tradition that stands out, and Dunn says she wants to bring it back.
Growing up in Rockford, Minnesota, every Christmas Eve Dunn’s mom, Dede, read “The Night Before Christmas” to the family. Huddled in the living room near the decorated tree and “super old piano with ivory keys,” Tasha and her younger brother, Sidney, and sister, Danielle, would listen intently as their mom sat on the couch reading the popular story. It started in their childhood and continued as adults.
“We’d all gather around and listen to that story before bed. Then we’d wake up and the presents would be under the tree. That’s when Santa came to our house,” said Dunn, assistant professor of communication at UNK. “I’d love to keep that tradition intact. I was just telling Ben that I want to bring it back and continue it with our family now. It’s been a few years since my mom passed away, and we haven’t done it.”
Tasha’s husband, Ben Myers, is an associate professor of communication at UNK.
We asked Dunn a variety of questions about the holidays:
What is your favorite holiday song?
I love music, but I’m kind of a Christmas carol curmudgeon. I don’t think holiday songs should be played before Thanksgiving or after Christmas. I’m tolerant and cool with it for a few days, but then it needs to go away. I grew up singing in choir. I can tolerate singing “Carol of the Bells” over and over again. It has some complex parts and rhythms, and it is always fun singing that song in a caroling group. If you can nail it then it’s always good.
What should Santa bring you this year?
Everything Amazon offers a woman in her mid-30s, especially fun clothing items and unique dresses. I recently bought a dress with dinosaurs on it. I would love to find some weird, odd and fun dress with pockets. I love dresses with pockets. That would be a great thing. Whatever ad on the side calls out to me would probably be good.
Most memorable gift you received as a kid?
When I was 11 or 12 years old, I got a small TV and VCR for my own room. Probably a 13-inch TV. I remember feeling so independent and so cool. I used to watch “Roseanne” and “The Nanny,” especially late at night when my parents thought I was sleeping. “The Wizard of Oz” and “Mary Poppins” were favorites, too. I watched those repeatedly.
What should Santa bring UNK?
It’s probably not likely, but an international airport would be amazing. And Starbucks delivery service so Starbucks could deliver to our offices on campus, particularly on Thursdays and Fridays.
Favorite holiday movie?
For the sake of nostalgia, I love the story of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” although it’s such an odd movie to watch. But for overall entertainment and humor, my favorite is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” I laugh every time I watch that, like I’ve never seen it before.
What does your Christmas tree look like?
I’m a clean and organized person, but my tree speaks otherwise. It’s kind of a hot mess for people coming in from the outside. I have colored lights with a big white star on top. Our ornaments have significant meaning to our family. I have an ornament from the year I was born, and my husband has one from the year he was born. We have Nintendo ornaments, Nativity scenes, a Starbucks coffee mug because I love coffee – every ornament speaks to us in some way from our past. We also get a fresh tree every year. And yes, those pine needles are a pain, I must say.
You had a little extra “Christmas” spirit this holiday as a cast member in “Nuncrackers” at Kearney Community Theatre?
I was Sister Robert Anne, who interestingly is a character who channels who I loved as a child. I always wanted to be the center of attention, and any time she has a chance to shine, she attempts to. She’s my favorite character I’ve ever played. My stepson, Henry, is 11 and has found his love for theater. It’s really his niche. I haven’t been on the stage in nine years even though I have a background in theater. Henry is also in “Nuncrackers,” and him getting involved really inspired me to get back into it. I auditioned. I was super terrified, got in and it’s been a total blast. I’ve really enjoyed all the people I’ve met in the community.