If Bobbi Grizzard had her way, nobody should go through what Kevin McAllister went through in Home Alone.
Created out of a thought that nobody should be home alone to celebrate Christmas, long-time former Saipan resident Bobbi Grizzard began a tradition more than 20 years ago where families, friends, and strangers would gather to bask in the essence of the season.
Amanda Dunn is continuing that tradition, an annual get-together called Saipan Family Christmas Open House.
“Bobbi Gizzard started the Open House tradition and she hosted it for 23 years on Christmas Day,” Dunn said. “My family and I would host a Saipan Family Christmas with a gift exchange prior to Christmas. Then, in 2015, we merged them together to make it the ‘Saipan Family Christmas Open House’ and moved it to our house.”
This year, the Open House tradition is now 27 years old.
“We have hosted the Saipan Family Christmas for nine years now,” said Dunn. “Many of us live on island and don’t have family near and need somewhere to go to celebrate this wonderful day.”
No man is an island and this is especially true during Christmas where everyone is expected to spend it with family. That thought alone—not a movement or an active organization—led to the birth of the tradition.
“I think Christmas is a very special time of the year and I am blessed to spend it on such a wonderful place. I love Saipan but it can get lonely on the holidays if you are alone,” Dunn said.
“During my first Saipan Christmas, I traveled and went to Korea, then on my second Christmas I thought I would just stay on island, but most of the people that I knew were busy with their families or traveling and so it was really kind of sad. Then I met more people and went to Bobbi Gizzard’s Open House on Christmas Day and, since then, Christmas has been full and anything but lonely,” Dunn added.
The idea of opening up her house on Christmas Day to many people is not something that everybody is willing to do but Dunn said her grandmother influenced her in many ways. “My grandmother was very hospitable and the door was always open. …I had 18 cousins and we would spend Christmas together with aunts and uncles, so I always remember Christmas as a good time of big gatherings and good food. Everyone pitches in for a big potluck and that, too, is how we do it—everyone brings a dish of their specialty to share and the kind of beverages they prefer and we share in one true family-style day,” she added.
A part in the program has Santa Claus showing up and calling the children by their names and giving them gifts.
“Seeing the children light up when Santa arrives and spending time with them is special in a Saipan family sort of way. …Parents bring a gift for Santa to give to the children and everyone brings food to help make a feast,” she said.
“It’s always a great time and we have a lot of fun exchanging gifts and playing Christmas games…Even with Saipan being a small island, sometimes I will meet people for the first time at Christmas and see them again after many months—but Christmas Day gives us that connection,” she added.