To Penn State players, a family Christmas celebration is just a memory.

For the past two years, the Nittany Lions have spent the holidays ordering room service, making long distance calls home and practicing for a bowl game."It's nicer to be home for Christmas, but I guess we're getting used to it," All-American guard Jeff Hartings said. "It doesn't even feel like Christmas. I'm looking forward to two years from now when I can finally have a Christmas at home."

No. 2 Penn State (11-0) is fighting for a national title, and coach Joe Paterno wanted to make sure his team was prepared for its Jan. 2 Rose Bowl matchup against No. 12 Oregon (9-3).

The team arrived in California Dec. 19 and has been practicing, sometimes twice a day, at the University of California-Irvine.

"I don't think anybody enjoys it, but we know that we have to come out here early - especially in California with the time change and the weather difference," Hartings said. "It takes more than five days to get ready for a game. You can't come out here after Christmas and expect to be ready."

Most of the players' families won't arrive until Dec. 30, so the team planned a Christmas Eve party with the families of coaches and staff.

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"My wife and some of the other coaches' wives bake cookies," Paterno said. "We have a lot of young kids with us, so we'll have a Santa Claus."

The players get a break from practice Sunday and Monday, and there will be a Christmas Day service and team dinner at their hotel.

For native Pennsylvanians like defensive end Todd Atkins, it's tough to celebrate Christmas among the palm trees and beaches.

"Around this town it didn't seem like there were too many Christmas decorations," he said. "It just didn't seem Christmasy without the snow and everything."

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