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How do the Obersteins celebrate the holiday season?

Life West is home to a diverse population of students who come from all over the world. Within the Life West community, celebrating the holidays means many things, from different holidays to a variety of specific ways we honor the day or days that mean something to us. As we near the end of the year and many of us prepare to spend more time with family and friends, away from our Life West family, let’s hear from Dr. Ron Oberstein, President of Life Chiropractic College West, and his wife, Dr. Mary Oberstein, about how they celebrate the holidays.   

Q: Mary grew up Catholic, and Ron grew up Jewish. What do the holidays look like at the Oberstein house? A tree and a menorah?

Drs. Ron and Mary Oberstein

Mary: A tree and a menorah, yes. We see ourselves as really more spiritual than religious. We’ve made the holidays our own spiritually. We talk about love, family, spirit – that really is what the holidays are for us. 

Ron: With our children, we allowed them to be exposed to everything so as they grew up they could make a choice about what was right for them. 

Mary: It was important to us to expose them to a lot of different cultures. 

Ron: We took them traveling all over the world during the holiday season, so they could experience different things, be in different places and see how people live.

Mary: It was important to me to be home on Christmas Day though. So one year we’d be home and the next year we’d travel.

Ron: I remember Santa coming in on a jet ski in Mexico one year.

Mary: Ron prefers being somewhere warm. So we’d travel for one week, then next year do it at home.

Ron: The biggest thing for us in how we raise our kids is that we raised them chiropractically, knowing about universal and innate intelligence. If they wanted to go to Hebrew school, they could. If they wanted to attend Bible study, they could do that. They could choose to do whatever they wanted to do. 

Q: Your kids call themselves “double-dippers.” Can you describe what you mean by that?

Ron: We celebrate Christmas and we celebrate Hanukkah – gifts for both!

Mary: We all know the Hanukkah prayer as well as Christmas carols. We are very inclusive that way. Encouraging our children to go out and learn about other cultures made them more inquisitive.

Ron: Our second daughter chose to go to Hebrew school and be bat mitzvahed. When she went, our third daughter said she also wanted to go. But she left, saying it was not right for her after two weeks. We said OK, no pressure.

Q: Do you have a favorite holiday tradition with your family?

Mary: Going to look at the lights on the night before Christmas, then opening one gift before Christmas Day.

Ron: We’d get in the car on Christmas Eve, kids in their pajamas and drinking hot chocolate, and we’d drive around and see all the Christmas lights, then come home and open one gift.

Mary: Growing up in our house, we didn’t have Kellogg’s cereal or white milk (cow’s milk). For Christmas Day, the girls would say, “Mom, did you get the Corn Pops?” You would think it was like gold! They’d open gifts on Christmas morning and eat a big bowl of Corn Pops with white milk.

Now, Secret Santa is huge – we have a text thread about it that includes all the husbands. Last night there was an hour-long text thread with jokes about who has who.

Ron: It went on longer than that – I had over 35 texts when I woke up this morning! And that was after a few hours of texting last night!

Mary: We also do holiday dinners with certain families, including an ornament exchange – we never miss that every year.

Ron: Twenty-five years of an ornament exchange with four other families!

Mary: We’ve never missed one. And the kids were always there and come now, if they’re in town.

Dr. Ron with his three daughters and their partners, during a recent holiday break in San Jose. (Dr. Mary took the picture!)

We’ve always had traditional things, like Mary always makes the stuffed shells for Christmas Eve dinner.

And a neighbor of ours, one of the best bakers in town, would leave a wrapped plate of treats for us every year.

Mary: If we were in the house and heard a noise outside, we’d all race to the door. She wouldn’t knock, just leave the plate at the door.

We’d also give each daughter one ornament every year so that when they got older, they would have ornaments from each Christmas.

Ron: We’ve done that for over 20 years.

Mary: It was the last gift they would open. Now that they’re older, they each put up their own tree and send me pictures, and it’s cool!

Ron: A lot of the ornaments are themed around who the person is, like sports ornaments if they’re into that. We had Michael Jordan at the top of the tree for years.

Mary: One Christmas, one of the most memorable, we were in San Diego so it was 70 degrees. The girls opened gifts and there were bathing suits. They asked, “Why’d you give us bathing suits? Are we going somewhere?” We said no, but the pool is heated! (It wasn’t heated in winter, usually.)

Ron: They never swam in December.

Mary: They ran and got their suits on and dove into the pool.

Ron: As they got older, one of my traditions was to get a jigsaw puzzle. We worked on it during the holiday, when we were home for two weeks, sitting in the living room. By the end of the holiday it was done. Friends would come over and hang out, boyfriends and friends from high school. Anyone who came to the house would always spend time, talking and working on the puzzle. I’d look for puzzles that were maybe 500 pieces.

Mary: No, 5,000 pieces!

Ron: Everything we did, we tried to revolve around family time and being together and having that time together, that time to honor each other and celebrate.

Q: What are you looking forward to this year?

Mary: The two of us are going to Montana.

Ron: Our youngest daughter and her husband will be there. One of the kids has a family in Denver, another one is in Phoenix.

Mary: We will make the rounds and will get to see everyone. We’re always connected, even though we are far apart.



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