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Gregory & Petukhov combine holiday traditions

Melissa and Denis in Russia during the holidays in 2006.
Melissa and Denis in Russia during the holidays in 2006. (Melissa Gregory)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(12/19/2007) - "When I grew up, we celebrated everything," says Melissa Gregory, six-time U.S. ice dance silver medalist with her partner/husband Denis Petukhov. "My mother is Jewish and my father is Catholic, so we celebrated Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's, everything. It was really cool, because as kids we (she has an older brother, Michael) got lots of presents and we were also able to understand the holidays from both religions."

Sometimes, Gregory says her family liked to mix things up a little. The tree topper on the Christmas tree was a Star of David, and the Christmas stockings were blue and white (the colors of the Israeli flag) with Shalom written on them.

At 13, Gregory left home to train in Colorado Springs, and she didn't always make it back to Chicago for the holidays. "It's right before Nationals and you're always training. I'd try, but I didn't get home every year," she says.

When she first teamed up with Petukhov in 2000, they knew they wouldn't be competing that year, so they headed to her family in Chicago for the holidays. By then, her brother had graduated from Vanderbilt University (in Nashville), and was in medical school in Chicago. "That was really nice to finally be together again," she says. "On Christmas Eve, Denis proposed to me; so that's a nice Christmas story we always remember."

They married on Feb. 2, 2001.

In Petukhov's Russian Orthodox faith, Christmas is observed in January, and it's really a secondary holiday after New Year's which is the biggest and most festive holiday. "It was fun for Denis to see an American Christmas," Gregory says. "He got into the Christmas spirit."

The last few years, they have been known to put a Santa hat on their dog, Suede.

A a Russian New Year's tradition Gregory and Petukhov always observe is eating caviar and drinking champagne. They're hoping her parents will be able to join them in Delaware this year. For Christmas, it will be just the two of them. "We'll skate, and then we'll go home and I'll cook something special, because I love cooking," she says. "In the hustle and bustle of everything, it's nice to sit down, relax and spend time together."