Christmas with the Kaufusis: How the first female mayor of Provo spends Christmas with her family
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi is completing her first year as mayor. The pace has been swift and she says she is very busy.
“I’m surprised how much I care about this job,” she said.
For as much as she cares about her job and community like they were family, for a few short days around Christmas, she will turn her attention to her actual family and spend time making and remembering holiday traditions that have continued now for 30 years or more.
Michelle said the holiday celebrating really gets started at Thanksgiving with her family.
“We always watch the ‘Sound of Music,’ sometimes twice, and have a sing-in (in the kitchen while prepping food),” she said. “The night before, its all-hands-on-deck breaking bread for stuffing. We make stuffing by scratch, lots of it. Everyone has an assignment.”
She said as soon as the feasting is over, they get to decorating real quick for Christmas. They put up a Christmas tree in the basement of their home that holds all of the ornaments the children have made through the years. Many are starting to show their age and are falling apart, but they still go on the tree.
“I love seeing their little faces shining out from the tree,” Michelle said. “I also have a whole winter village for the kids. It was my mother’s. You can’t buy them anymore.”
And then there is the mayor’s favorite cooking music.
“It’s nothing but the Carpenter’s Christmas music. I love it,” she said.
“We don’t go small,” she said. “For four days it’s nothing but family.”
Steve and Michelle Kaufusi’s family, with Bronson and wife Hillary, Alexis, Corbin and the twins Devin and Daryl just spend time together, with little fanfare, but lots of love and fun.
This year, a new addition to the family will join them. Daryl married Tanner Heath in the Salt Lake City Temple in October. Tanner was with the family last year and his gift was from Devin. He gave Tanner a pillow with the 12 ugliest pictures Devin could find of Daryl on the pillow. Devin is hoping this is a new tradition.
Corbin, who has been recovering from a couple of surgeries, said he is excited to have Christmas and family.
“The best thing is being together,” he said. “Everyone knows we’re spending it with family. It’s not forced, it’s just the way it is. We know we’re going to have a good time together.”
Michelle said that when the kids get all together, they revert back to being small children.
“There is not a lot of scheduling,” she said. “We have brunch around 11 every morning.”
The traditional family brunch includes blueberry waffles, German pancakes, turkey sausage and bacon, and scrambled eggs with maple syrup. On Christmas morning, they have cinnamon rolls. Food is a big part of the celebration and everyone participates in eating.
As for other traditions, Michelle said the family has taken pictures with Santa Claus every year since Steve and Michelle were married. This year, 30 framed Santa group photos will be a part of the home Christmas décor.
Michelle said the family has never been big on gifts. While the children were growing up they got three gifts and nothing big.
Steve said it was because when Jesus was born, he got three gifts, and so that is what they decided to do for the kids.
“We’d pull it off for about $100,” Steve said. “When the kids were young, we were so broke. The three gifts would be socks, a toothbrush and underwear.”
Since the kids were about high school age they started drawing names. They all get one gift now.
Michelle said the children were taught that Christmas is not about gifts, but about spending time together.
“There is no hustle-and-bustle and no money worries,” she said. “There are meals, activities and games, particularly Jenga. We’re pretty competitive.”
Nowadays, Steve said he goes out on Christmas Eve and hits all the 90 percent off sales to find his gifts.
Michelle said the children always dressed in costumes and acted out the Nativity story.
Michelle said, “Steve is from poverty. He never had decorations, never did Christmas trees. To him, (Christmas) is about relationships and the Savior.”
Steve related one memory of a Christmas gift he received from his aunt.
“When I was little I loved to play cowboys and Indians,” Steve said. “My aunt brought me a cap gun. We didn’t have much. We’d mostly read out of the scriptures. There was no tree, no electricity. We did go caroling from house to house.”
Michelle’s family was big, seven children raised by a single mom.
“Our grandma and grandpa (they had the money) had a condo in Palm Springs. We’d drive there and they’d pay for us to go to Disneyland. I did that until I got married. There were no gifts. That would be our gift.”
Music and dancing always followed the Kaufusi presentation of the Nativity story. The cultural influences of dancing and music come from the island traditions of the family.
“The island side (Steve was born in Tonga) is the music and the dancing side. We’d let the kids dress up and do shows for us. I’m the awkward white person looking in,” Michelle said.
Corbin said one of his favorite memories was several years in a row when he was in high school, they opened one gift on Christmas Eve and it wasn’t pajamas.
“The night before, we opened presents and had wigs and costumes to dress up. One time, I got like this blonde wig and we had a dance party with just our immediate family,” Corbin said. “My dad started dancing to disco. Bronson doesn’t know how to dance at all. Alexis was the DJ and did the videos.”
Corbin said he hopes those videos don’t make it on social media.
Michelle said this Christmas, like others, they will barbecue no matter what the temperature is and cook at least three different kinds of meat. There is food available everywhere. The counters will be loaded with different cheeses, crackers and they’ll splurge and get a big shrimp platter from Costco like they do every year.
“We pull out family videos,” Michelle Kaufusi said. “It’s not about the gifts, it’s about spending time together.”