Courtesy of the Rockettes

The Rockettes told us their most unusual holiday traditions, and they're guaranteed to get you hyped for Christmas

December 05, 2018 1:08 pm

Nothing is more festive than the Rockettes’ annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Nothing! The costumes, the kick lines, the incredible acrobatics, the pageantry of it all—it just oozes Christmas cheer, and we look forward to it every year.

The precision dance troupe has been around since 1925. They perform occasionally throughout the year, but the Christmas Spectacular is definitely their biggest and most beloved production. The 90-minute show has been around almost as long as the company—since 1933—and some numbers, like “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” are performed with nearly the same steps and costumes as in the early days of the show.

Courtesy of the Rockettes

This year, we were thrilled to get exclusive interviews with 10 Rockettes, and we asked them to reveal their most unusual holiday traditions. Luckily, they obliged, and they shared some excellent answers.

Liz Peterson

Courtesy of the Rockettes

6th season as a Rockette; from El Sobrante, California

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “A surprising holiday tradition in our family is karaoke! We all love to sing our favorite holiday tunes after a big feast. One of my brothers will play the drums while the other breaks out the guitar and my grandma watches with a big smile on her face.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“My favorite memories of performing in the Christmas Spectacular are during the ‘Here Comes Santa Clause’ number. Rockettes dressed as Santa run through the audience and surprise the people sitting in the aisles before performing onstage in the fun, high-energy number.”

Kristin Jantzie

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14th season as a Rockette; from Lacombe, Alberta, Canada

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “Although most of my extended family is in Alberta, Canada, my two sisters (who have also performed as Rockettes in the Christmas Spectacular) and I live very close to each other in Long Island City. On Christmas Eve, we always spend the evening together and invite friends and cast mates who are away from their families to join ours. We always have a bûche de Noël (Yule log) and Christmas movies playing in the background.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“The first day of rehearsals when my two sisters and I all performed together as Rockettes really stands out as a wonderful Rockette memory. I had already been performing as a Rockette for a few years and many of my fellow Rockettes did not know that I had two sisters who were also dancers. It was really nice to be able to lean on my sisters for support throughout the busy Christmas Spectacular season.”

Kari Gregg

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10th season as a Rockette; from Greenwood, Indiana

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “As a child growing up in Indiana, I was a very picky eater, so my Mimi (my grandmother) always had the hardest time cooking for me. One food she made every holiday was her ‘Polish Mistakes.’ They are very simple (meat and cheese with spices on rye bread), but I loved the bite-sized appetizers. Polish Mistakes are still the dish I looked forward to eating every year during the holidays.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“My first year performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was my absolute favorite memory performing as a Radio City Rockette. Growing up, my eyes were always glued to the television when the Rockettes were performing. Now, I can say millions of future Rockettes are watching me at home as I perform those legendary eye-high kicks!”

Nicole Schuman

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17th season as a Rockette; from Harrison Township, Michigan

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “Growing up, my sister and I would hardly sleep on the night before Christmas. Long before the sun was up, we would both leap out of bed and run to our parents’ room to wake them up. They would let us choose one gift to open and then we could open the rest when everyone woke up a few hours later. Eventually, our parents realized that they could cut out the early wake-up call by telling us before bed that when we awoke, we could choose our gift and then wake them up later. They also reminded us that Santa was watching, so we knew not to take more than one. While I still wake up early on Christmas, it is because I am headed to Radio City Music Hall to spend the day performing in the Christmas Spectacular with the cast who have become my second family. However, the tradition lives on. Regardless of how early it may be, the first thing my sister and I do on Christmas morning is FaceTime each other as we open one another’s gift.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“One of my favorite memories from performing in the Christmas Spectacular has to be the day our entire cast went straight from the theater following a morning performance to a soup kitchen to spend the rest of the day helping to feed the hungry in the community. Once everyone was seated with a hot meal, the singers from the show sang Christmas carols, while some of us helped the soup kitchen staff clean up for the night. It was such a meaningful way to spend Christmas Day.”

Jessica Palu

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6th season as a Rockette; from Grand Island, Nebraska

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “Every year, my family hangs an ornamental glass pickle on our Christmas tree and hides it among all of the other Christmas ornaments and decorations. On Christmas morning, whoever finds the pickle gets to open the first present. I will never forget the year my brothers and I spent hours searching the tree for the glass pickle only to realize my parents forgot to put it on the tree!”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“One of my favorite things about performing in the Christmas Spectacular is trying to spot my family in the audience. Whenever someone’s family comes to the show, we always tell each other to keep an eye out for them. It makes the shows extra special for us, and it is a fun game trying to spot them in the crowd without missing a beat on stage. Each year, in order to help me find them, my parents buy merch from Radio City that lights up. I tell them exactly where I’m going to be on stage and they track me throughout the show like a game of ‘Where’s Waldo?’ Every time they spot me, they turn their lights on, and I light up on stage.”

Maile Maakafi

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1st season as a Rockette; born in Honolulu, Hawaii, grew up in Queen Creek, Arizona

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “My entire family spends every Christmas at my grandma’s home in Torrance, California. We start the morning with her famous cranberry-orange muffins and then open presents and stockings by the fireplace. My mom, brothers, and I always head to the beach after all the holiday festivities to watch the sunset as a family.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“When I was 12, my dance studio performed as the opening act for the Christmas Spectacular when the show was on tour in Glendale, Arizona. That was my first time seeing the Rockettes, and as soon as I saw those famous eye-high kicks, I knew that I had to be a part of that line. Eight years of hard work later, I was offered the position of a lifetime!”

Sophia Anthony

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4th season as a Rockette; from Miami, Florida

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “My most unusual holiday tradition is going to Disney World in Orlando, Florida every Christmas Eve. My family always had this tradition of spending the day together in the park riding our favorite rides and indulging in our favorite treats. We always ended the night with midnight mass and hot cocoa by our electric fireplace.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“My favorite memory of performing in the Christmas Spectacular was last year when I surprised a young girl in the audience. In one of our classic routines, ‘Rag Dolls,’ we rise up from an elevator onto the stage and start our high-energy tap routine. I will never forget the moment when we started the number and I locked eyes with an excited and amazed young girl in the audience. She was holding her Rockette doll, waved directly at me, and continued to watch us dance and tried to copy our every movement in her seat with her doll. Being a Rockette and performing in the Christmas Spectacular is so special, not only to me, but to all the little girls who dream big.”

Elizabeth DuPont

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1st season as a Rockette; from Olathe, Kansas

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “Every Christmas morning, my mother makes a sausage soufflé with sausage, eggs, bread, milk, and cheese. She will put all of the ingredients together in a pan the night before and let it sit overnight. The next morning, when we’re halfway through opening gifts, she’ll put it in the oven and as soon as we’re finished with presents, the hot soufflé is ready on the kitchen table.”

Favorite memory of the Christmas Spectacular“This is my very first Christmas Spectacular and I couldn’t be more excited! I remember when I received the call telling me I’m a Rockette, I had just returned home from being away all summer and was with my mom, dad, and fiancé when my phone began to ring. I saw it was from New York City and knew that they would be calling Rockette hopefuls around the same time. I completely froze and, after a few seconds of letting it ring, I finally answered and realized that my dreams were coming true.”

Aly McKenzie

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3rd season as a Rockette; from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “Every year, my entire family does a scavenger hunt on Christmas Eve that is specific to where we are at that time. One year we were in Vancouver, British Columbia, and my brother, sister, and I had to run all over town collecting unique items and taking photos at tourist spots to ensure we made it back before our cousins to secure the win.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“One of my favorite memories of performing in the Christmas Spectacular is at the top of the show. We are ready to go in our reindeer costumes and we rise up from the basement level to stage level and I always have chills and excitement hearing the orchestra play the first couple counts of music and hearing the audience’s excitement about the incredible show we are about to give them.”

Amarisa LeBar

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2nd season as a Rockette; from Iselin, New Jersey

Most unusual or surprising holiday tradition: “One of my favorite holiday traditions centers around our house’s Christmas decorations. We have a little holiday mailbox that we display in our living room. Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve used it as a time capsule. I put pictures from that year in the mailbox and I always write a note to myself of what’s going on in my life during that time, with a few goals I want to achieve by the next Christmas. After the holidays, the mailbox gets put away in our attic. At Christmastime the following year, when our decorations are put back on display, I get to open it up and take a look back on my life a year ago and see what I’ve accomplished.”

Favorite memory from performing in the Christmas Spectacular“My favorite memory performing in the Christmas Spectacular was when my dance studio came to see me perform. Last year was my first season as a Radio City Rockette, so it was very special to me to have so many people from my home wanting to see the show. They decided to take a bus trip into the city to see the Christmas Spectacular. Over 100 children and their families were there to celebrate and cheer me on. The amount of love and support I felt onstage coming from the audience was so exciting and humbling. Truly something I will never forget.”