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Iowa families share unique holiday traditions

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

There are plenty of time-honored traditions across cultures, but some households put their own twist on the holiday season.

gail brashers-krug hanukkah
Photo courtesy of Gail Brashers-Krug
Gail Brashers-Krug and her family lighting Hanukkah candles.

Carving the Thanksgiving turkey, lighting the menorah during Hanukkah, lighting the kinara during Kwanzaa, filling Christmas stockings, Diwali illuminations, pre-dawn feasting during Ramadan, red envelopes for the Lunar New Year are all common customs many families observe - but some families have developed traditions to make the season uniquely their own.

Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe speaks to several families who have used their creativity to make Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas extra special for their families.


  • Gail Brashers-Krug, Iowa City-based attorney
  • Abena Sankofa Imhotep, author, executive director, Sankofa Literary and Empowerment Group
  • Khalid El Khatib, marketing executive and freelance writer, Dubuque native
  • Janet El Khatib, retired nurse, Dubuque resident
  • Brad Dunlap, vice president,business development, CIVCO Medical Solutions
  • Brian Dunlap, physical education teacher, Fairfield Community School District
  • Natalie Dunlap, University of Iowa student and IPR intern
Dunlaps Christmas Vacation
Photo courtesy of Natalie Dunlap
The Dunlap brothers dressing up as characters from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.
Dunlap Christmas Vacation Freeze
Photo courtesy of Natalie Dunlap
The Dunlap family recreating a scene from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

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Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Natalie Dunlap is a rising junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and minoring in gender, women's & sexuality studies. She is from Iowa City and in her free time enjoys getting coffee and reading downtown with friends.