The StN Project

What does Christmas mean to you?

Merry Christmas everyone!  

 Following our wonderful tweet chat about how different religions celebrate festivals throughout the year we wanted to show you how we all celebrate Christmas. At the Student Nurse Project, we have a team who come from many walks of life, various up bringing’s and different religions.  

Firstly, here is a list of the religious celebrations for 2019 to put into your diary:  

 So, what does Christmas mean to each of us?  

Claire Carmichael – Third Year Adult Nursing Student at Birmingham City University  

 Religion: Non but more spiritual.  

 What does Christmas mean to you? I don’t think of Christmas as a religious celebration. For me Christmas is about family time. I haven’t had a big family Christmas since I was 7 years old sadly, but I do make the most of spending time with the family I have around me during this period. It’s a time to be thankful for what I have in my life. I believe it’s also a time for forgiveness. It’s the one day I always make a conscious effort to speak to all my family and send out thoughts in a card to them, even if we don’t speak anymore. And all I wish for every year is my family and friends to be happy and healthy.  

 How do you spend Christmas? The past few years I have spent it with my sister, her partner, her partners kids and my nephew down in Kent. Sadly, there is a bit of a divide in my family at the minute, so we are all separate for Christmas. I’d love nothing more than one big family Christmas like I was 7 years old again!  

Clare Manley – Second Year Mental Health Nursing Student at Sheffield Hallam University 

 Religion: Roman Catholic  

 What does Christmas mean to you? Christmas for me isn’t just about one day, it is about the build-up, the traditions and the way it gives us a chance each year to take stock and reflect.  I love that we sing carols that have been around for years, that people take the time to decorate their homes, to send cards or make gifts to those they care about, to see people that we maybe don’t get time to see the rest of the year, brass bands and the salvation army at the shops – I just people would slow down a little. For me it is all about the sentiment behind the action.  Part of that is going to church and reflecting on my own belief and faith.  It is certainly not about expensive gifts or getting stressed about shopping.   We don’t buy gifts for everyone – we do one secret Santa across the whole extended family – kids included and that is it! 

 How do you spend Christmas? It is all about family and friends – this year it will start with a big party and sleepover with 50 guides and scouts on Saturday, followed by the arrival of my sister and her kids.  Christmas Eve will be a trip to the National Trust property near me to tire out the kids and the dog, then we are off to our little local cinema (that still has an interval) to see Mary Poppins.  The evening will start with carol singing with the Scouts, delivering parcels to those who live alone and may not see anyone else, followed by Christmas Mass.  Christmas day will hopefully give me a small lie in now my kids are older but will start with bubbles and then the whole extended family will spend the day at my Mum and Dads eating and drinking!  My eldest asked me this week – do most people watch TV at Christmas?  We never do – and I am lucky we don’t, we are too busy chatting and playing games and enjoying each other’s company – just writing this makes me feel happy 🙂. The days that follow will involve walks with friends, Christmas films and an almighty New Year with friends! 

 Rachael Palmer – Second year adult nursing student at the University of Plymouth

 Religion: None, but there is a strong Christian history in my family. I wasn’t Christened as my Mum wanted us to be able to choose. Whilst I am grateful for that and do not practice any form of religion, there are times when I question what I do and do not believe in. 

 What does Christmas mean to you? Christmas has always been a family affair for us. Each year we would alternate between being at home with Mum’s family, and across the road in the farmhouse with Dad’s; 24 of us around the table for a feast. But, as I get older and look back at these experiences with the mountain of food, the presents under the tree and Dad inevitably leaning over the candle and catching his paper hat on fire(!), I realise what it’s truly about. We are ever so fortunate to be able to be with each other on Christmas day, to be fed, to be warm and dry. Christmas is a celebration of every person there, of Grandma and her hard work cooking and now that she’s no longer able, we celebrate her quick wit and humour that remains. It’s giving thanks for what we have and taking a moment to do something for someone else over the festive period. My student nurse training, especially in the community setting, has opened my eyes to just how many people are living without their basic needs being met and Christmas takes on a whole new meaning. I think about some patients I’ve met every single day without hot water and heating, wishing upon a star that one-day things get better. In the meantime, nurses will continue to be that difference, that smile, conversation and tying services together.  

 How do you spend Christmas?  Today, Christmas is still a family affair, but it changes year on year who we have at home and we rarely go elsewhere or to the farmhouse which is a shame, but times change. This year, I shall go to Midnight Mass with my Dad, and wake up to a stocking from the parents which we open on their bed in our PJs (I don’t think this will ever change)! We have prosecco and croissants for breakfast and then tea and Christmas cake at 11am with my Dad’s family. For lunch we have Mum’s parents at home which will be around 1pm, after presents and more drinks! We then collapse on the sofa after lunch with a hot drink and the TV. When Mum’s parents go, late-afternoon-ish, we play board games and if there’s any room – stick a hand in the chocolate tin!  


Debs Cooper –  RN (2 years qualified) in Birmingham

Religion: Church of England, but faith is about more than going to church on a Sunday, it’s about how you live your life & how you treat others.

What does Christmas mean to you? For me Christmas is about spending time with family and celebrating together. This usually involves going to church together, eating far too much food, indulging in the odd tipple or 2 and laughing a lot as we open presents, play cards or do other things together. We normally have a Christmas games tournament with each card or board game giving you points (4 for winning, 1 for coming last etc) and it’s a source of great pride to be the family champion for that year  

How do you spend Christmas? This year will be like a traditional family Christmas as my parents, brother & I will all be home together. We’ll go to midnight service on Christmas eve, have our stockings & a glass of something when we get back and then Christmas day itself is spent rotating between eating, opening presents, playing games & generally putting the world to rights. After 2 years of working on Christmas day I’m very pleased to have Christmas day off this year so I can indulge like this. Working on Christmas day has been fun but I can’t wait to spend the day with my family. 


Abby Martin – Third Year Mental Health Nursing Student at Essex University

Religion: I was brought up a Christian and Christianity is still a big part of my family’s Christmas, therefore mine, however, I’d describe myself as more spiritual than Christian.

What does Christmas mean to you? To me Christmas means family, love and coming together. I think it’s a time to tell and show those you love how much you love them, a time to be thankful for all you have and a time to come together with people who you may not see throughout the year.  

How do you spend Christmas? Christmas this year is a little different for me, every year for the past 7 years I’ve spent it with my Dad, but this year I’m spending it with my Mum. Christmas can be tough with families that are spilt and all the drama that comes with that but every year I try my best to make it special. Christmas normally looks like a lie in, presents, chocolate for breakfast, a long dog walk, Christmas dinner (oh yes!), games, drink, more games, Christmas tea (here’s a secret, I actually prefer Christmas tea to Christmas dinner Ssh!) then even more games, A TV special and then by this point I normally stumble and fall into bed.  


Craig Davidson – Third Year Adult Nursing Student at Glasgow Caledonian University

Religion: I was Christened and brought up a Christian, going to Sunday school every week, and while I still have faith that there is a higher power, I would now describe myself as being spiritual.

What does Christmas mean to you? For me, Christmas is about spending time with loved ones. I am very close to my family and when we were young, Christmas used to be a big family event with my mum, dad, brother, sister and me opening our presents in the morning, then driving down to visit my grandparents for Christmas dinner in the evening. But I moved to London when I was 18 and lived away from home for 12 years. For most of those Christmases I was working in shows, the pantomimes certainly made it feel more Christmassy, but I very rarely got to spend the festive season with them, which could get very lonely. Though now I am back home in Glasgow and with my family and loved ones again, and that for me is Christmas; because I now think Christmas is more about presence than presents (which means staying off our phones), getting to spend quality time with those we love, reflecting on what we have, and thinking of those who are no longer with us. 

How do you spend Christmas? As this is my last Christmas before I, hopefully, become a qualified nurse, I am going to make sure I relax and enjoy it, as from here on out, the chance that I will be working throughout the festivities is very high. On the 23rd, we are heading over to my sister’s house to exchange secret Santa presents with her and her partner, my brother and sister-in-law and my other half and me. I love it when we all get to spend time together, and I get to bring the dessert! Then, for the second year, I will be spending Christmas with my other half’s family. We are heading down on Christmas Eve – I can’t wait for a cuddle with Honey, the family dog. We will open our presents with his mum and dad on Christmas morning, and then go and visit his brother and sister and their partners to see what Santa has brought their children. Christmas is so much more exciting when children are around, and I can’t wait until next Christmas, when my brother and his wife will have had their little baby girl and it will be her first Christmas. Christmas night, my other half’s sister is having the family over for Christmas dinner, always nice when you don’t need to cook – I may offer to do the dishes though. On Boxing Day, I will be back to working on my essay, which is due after the holidays. Then on the 27th, we will head back home and visit my parents to exchange gifts, which as nice as it keeps the Christmas spirit going. It has been such a challenging year with all that’s going on in the world, so I’m not going to want to take my tree down this year. 


Dann Gooding – Newly Qualified Nurse

Religion: I wasn’t brought up overly religious but rather found it on my own. But since then, religion and me don’t always agree, with that being said, I love my maker and believe that Jesus Christ is my saviour. I’ve found religion is integral for me in my role.  

What does Christmas mean to you?  I have worked Christmas for many years. But what I like to think about Christmas is as a time for family to come together. An opportunity for forgiveness, second chances and renewal of relationships. Because of work and living a lot (kinda) by myself over the Christmas period for the last several years, music has become a big part of my Christmas celebrations, even if that celebration is me finding time to find balance within myself and make sure I am doing okay. 

How do you spend Christmas? So, I am 25 now, I’ve been working mainly for the last 7 years. But that’s okay, so I generally spend Christmas looking after people. And I am absolutely fine with that, because that means they get to spend time with people, serving them, and I think that’s what Christmas should be about, an increase in serving as I think that that is how I celebrate and enjoy Christmas. As I have a family, I want to spend time with them over Christmas, as I believe the focus of Christmas then changes.  


Ellie Bullman – Third Year Adult Nursing Student at Worcester University

 Religion:  None 

 What does Christmas mean to you? Christmas is about spending time with loved ones. I think it’s the one time of year which is special to everyone for different reasons. It’s also an opportunity to see people you may not get to see that often. Food and gifts are equally as important to me, the thought of giving someone something you know they will love is special.  

 How do you spend Christmas? I usually have a bit of a hectic day on Christmas Day, starting off with Parkrun. Then I visit my mum, go and see my dad and brother for a bit and then once my partner finishes work we go over to his parent’s house. This year I wanted it to be quieter, so I’m going to my mum’s house and staying put. I’ll catch up with other people when I have time.  


Tommy Tierney Cassells – Final Year Adult Nurse at University of Southampton

 Religion: Born an Irish Roman Catholic but I have not written to the Pope to say I am out of the group. I am more spiritual/pagan in my belief system.  

What Christmas Means to me? Christmas to me is family and warmth.  

“Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin” a little Irish lesson for you “There is no fireside like your own fireside” 

It’s getting up and dragged to Christmas Mass (Service) just to say you went.  

Cooking and fighting with your mother to get the dinner ready while your Dad and Brother feed the cows.  

How do you spend Christmas? Ever since I was a child Christmas has been a big part of my family life like many of us. I still recall going to Dublin to see Santy with my brother, Mam and Dad.  The funny distractions that they would use to keep us occupied to create excitement and surprise pretty ingenious I might say (Shout out to Ann and Derek fair play). Do you eat the Bounty sweets or hoard them away for some odd relation? The evening ends with stomachs full of mince pies.  You go to sleep and rise again to join The Wren boys and Wren on St. Stephens Day.  It may look spooky if you google it but it was fun, I haven’t been in years, maybe this year I will venture out. As time went on, we grew up and our 5am starts became no more. In the years that followed we would have cousins, grandmothers and aunts over for Christmas dinner. Oddly enough presents were the last things on our mind. Christmas is always a time for family, food, fun and games. It’s the one day we all laugh and sometimes cry. Gathering together around an open fire is the one thing I miss the most since I moved over to Southampton. As students we tend not to put the heat on, I got collected from the airport and had to lower the heat in the car. However, it’s the warmth of family and home that I miss. This could possibly be the last Christmas I spend at home before I qualify, but nobody can say for sure. So, I will reminisce no more and spend it with them all. 

Rosie Schofield – Final year Student Nurse at the University of Southampton

 Religion: Atheist, although I consider myself to be a very spiritual person I do not follow any specific religion. 

What does Christmas mean to you? For me Christmas is about sharing love and kindness; with family, friends, colleagues and in our communities. As a child I loved Christmas and it was always such a special time in our house, since my Dad died it has changed; it’s still special but I’m more aware of the difficulties people face this time of year. 

How do you spend Christmas? Both my brothers and I still flock home to my Ma’s house in Norfolk and we have a very adult Christmas which is entirely centred around food, drink and spending time together. We all have busy lives and are currently quite spread out so it’s one of the few times of year we all get to come together. That makes it all the more precious and I think we all value that protected time together. This will be my last Christmas as a student nurse as I will be qualifying in February, so I’m going to make the most of being able to spend it with family this year. 


Lucy Mason – Newly Qualified Nurse

 Religion: I was Christened when I was born and I have beliefs of the morals that it brings 

What does Christmas mean to you? For me it is about spending time with the people that I love. Seeing the joy come to children in my life is particularly special. 

How do you spend Christmas? I think all of my Christmas have been different, we don’t have a set routine or way. Now that I am living with my husband to be we are working on building our own way to spend Christmas too. We usually try and go to see as much family as possible. This year we have been to see family and had family over, although we have ended up having 4 “Christmas days”! 

Jessica Sainsbury – Third Year Dual Field Student Nurse at the University of Southampton

Religion: I was Christened when I was a baby, and have been brought up with loose Christian beliefs but I have always been given a choice about what I want to believe in. If I’m honest, I’m still quite undecided. But I enjoy learning about other faiths and cultures as I meet some fascinating individuals and visit different countries. 

What does Christmas mean to you? Christmas is about taking time to reflect on the highs and lows of the year just passed, and spend time with loved ones.  

How do you spend Christmas? Christmas for me isn’t just about the 25th of December, it’s about the lead up just as much as the big day itself. From getting the tree up as early in December as possible (my husband has a touch of the bah humbugs with this!), making people smile with my fabulous Christmas shoes, Strictly Come Dancing finale, watching the kids in their Christmas Play, singing carols with the whole village in the road with a brass band, reminiscing about Christmasses past and those no longer with us, and then the period of 24-27 December where we visit all of the kids Grandparents and eat like kings! More cheese?! But the most important thing for me is that we are together, we are warm, we are fed, and we are happy. Take all of the presents, glitz and glam away, so long as I have my two kidlets and Tony I’m happy.  

Lily Parham – newly qualified nurse

Religion: I was raised catholic, but I’m now agnostic.  

 What does Christmas mean to you? I come from a big family of seven siblings, and so Christmas is one of the few times when we all get to be in the same room together! As well as enjoying quality time with family, we always try to welcome others – a lonely neighbour or the parish priest – to join the madness. I think attitudes around Christmas should remind us to be generous and compassionate all year round. 

Another thing worth remembering is that Christmas is not about being perfect. There’s an awful lot of commercial pressure to create the perfect meal or buy the perfect gift. I think it’s important to remember that you should enjoy celebrating the holiday whichever way is right for you.  

How do you spend Christmas? Me and my siblings are a quarter Polish and so Christmas Eve is just as big, if not bigger, than Christmas Day. We celebrate Vigilia on the 24th December, which includes specific (and delicious!) Polish delicacies and the exchange of peaceful blessings. Inviting guests in need is a big part of Vigilia, so there’s always space for a weary traveller… or, like four years ago, a good friend who sadly missed his flight home! We stay up late sharing jokes and stories. And then on Christmas Day, after exchanging secret santa stockings, we share a good meal and go for a brisk walk by the sea. A good movie never goes amiss, though my dad nearly always falls asleep in front of it… Because of our dad’s job, we’ve had Christmas all over the world. But the best part is always getting to spend time together, and extend the welcome to others

Benn Garner – Learning Disability Nursing Student 3rd Year

Religion: I wasn’t raised in a religious household but always brought up to respect others for their individual beliefs. Whilst I consider myself atheist I always love to listen to people discuss their religious backgrounds and listen to how their beliefs impact their lives and the joy it brings them.

What Christmas Means To Me? Christmas is all about being surrounded by the people you love most in the world and never taking it for granted because you know there are people less fortunate than you. Time to reflect on the year passed and think about the things you want to achieve next year.

How do I spend Christmas? If I’m home, I’m locked in doors with my family eating too much food and chocolate. If I’m working, I’m making sure that my service users are having the kind of day that would be given to me if I was at home.

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