Football has often impacted the holidays for University of Kansas football coach Lance Leipold’s family. He remembers a past Christmas day staff meeting and coaching a bowl game on the holiday two years ago. Now that the Jayhawks qualified for a bowl game this season, the Leipold family will once again need to adjust their festivities.
“For our kids, that’s what they know,” Coach Leipold says. “But we’re together, and that’s the most important thing.”
His wife, Kelly, organizes the holiday schedule. She includes traditions from the past and newer ones created with their children. Daughter Lindsey is a graduate student in Texas, and son Landon is a sophomore at Free State High School.
Kelly grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. On Christmas Eve, her family went out for dinner. While they were away, Santa would bring the presents for them to find when they got home. She thinks a neighbor played the part of Santa’s delivery person.
She remembers one year, “We’d gone to dinner, and when we came home, there was a puppy in a box in our living room. That was my favorite memory of Christmas.”
As a kid in Jefferson, Wisconsin, Coach Leipold remembers going through catalogs to mark what he wanted for Christmas. He also learned that the bigger the gift doesn’t necessarily mean the better.
Smiling, he explains, “I picked one to open, and Mom said, ‘It’s not what you think it is. You’re going to be disappointed.’ I thought she was playing with me. I had this big gift, and I opened it up. It was just a bed pillow.”
The Leipold holiday decorations feature 11 Christmas trees placed throughout their Lawrence home. Erica Rigdon with Style and Grace Interiors designed the towering formal tree in the living room. The family’s personal decorations adorn other trees in the house, including the ones in each kid’s room.
On Christmas Eve, Kelly makes two soups for her family. One is the kid’s favorite chicken noodle, and the other soup varies from year to year. Christmas Day dinner is crab legs and steak.
The family goes to Christmas Eve church services every year, which is an essential part of their holiday celebration. Afterwards, everyone opens one present, which is always pajamas. Kelly says she spends more time working on the “Christmas jammies” gift than anything else. Each year features a different theme. As the kids have gotten older, the theme has gotten more unique.
“After last year, I don’t know how it’s going to go this year,” Coach Leipold says with a
grin. Laughing, Kelly agrees, “I don’t know how we’re going to top it. Let’s just say the movie “A Christmas Story” was involved last year, and our son did not like the end result.”
One other Leipold tradition is enjoying homemade Monkey Bread on Christmas day. The recipe came from Coach Leipold’s mother. She created a handwritten cookbook containing the recipe given to the couple when they were married. Kelly puts the recipe together on Christmas Eve and bakes it on Christmas morning.
The Leipold family traditions will once again need to adapt to a football schedule. Luckily, they have experience with celebrating wins and Christmas at the same time.
“We’ve traveled some because of our schedules, and we’ve tried to protect some of our time,” he says. “We have short windows to spend around the holidays, but no matter where we’re at, it’s still about our family and the meaning of Christmas.”
Leipold Family Monkey Bread
2 loaves frozen bread dough
1/2 cup butter (the real stuff)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large package vanilla pudding (not instant)
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup nuts of choice
Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan. Thaw the bread, but don’t allow it to rise. Tear up the loaves into pieces the size of ping
pong balls. Place in the pan. Melt the butter. Add the rest of the ingredients to the butter. Pour over the bread
dough. Let rise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or overnight. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes. Turn out onto wax paper or a serving dish.