CELEBRATING WEST SUBURBAN HOLIDAY TRADITIONS WITH FAMILY
The holidays are rich in tradition throughout each west suburban community, with residents celebrating year to year in a variety of ways. From making ornaments with family and friends and dancing in the Nutcracker, to volunteering their time to make others smile and many more traditions– this month we introduce you to area residents who share their family favorites each holiday season.
Charlene Sligting of Oswego
Since Charlene was a young girl, her father, a retired Fire Captain, instilled in his children that they should give back and help others in our community. Charlene hit the ground running and has volunteered with the Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation, DuPage County Toys for Toys, and Oswego Junior Womens’ Club. Now married with a son, the family also volunteers with a non-profit organization which provides meals to Elgin community members regardless of economic status. The community event brings together people who might not otherwise share laughter and a meal together.
Charlene excitedly continues new traditions this year while raising support and awareness for Jeep Wave Charity Riders and the Bike Bald Group in Oswego. As a new Jeep owner herself and a visual storyteller with Docha Photography, Charlene will co-host Merry “Jeep” mas with Bike Bald Group founder Debbie Mossburg each year to bring together all those who have a love for their Jeeps, and a heart for helping children with cancer and rare illnesses through fundraising.
Mary Dougherty of Aurora
Mary is a 70- year resident of Aurora, a 23-year member of the Rotary Club of Aurora and has spent 14 years participating in the Festival of Lights which is her favorite tradition of the holiday season. She oversees the volunteers and Rotarians in Charge each night of the festival and has done everything from Chairing the event to providing food for the volunteers.
She takes great pride in being a part of a club that believes in providing an important service to the community by bringing joy and happiness to thousands of cars while also supporting many area organizations through charitable donations received during the festival.
Although some things will be much different this year due to COVID-19, Mary is thrilled to maintain this holiday tradition that is so special to her, and looks forward to seeing everyone in the community November 27th through December 27th; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The King Family of Aurora
The holiday season begins the day after Thanksgiving each year for the King Family. Madeline (23), Bailey (20), Carter (16), Hannah (12), and Caroline (8) each receive Christmas PJs and wear them while watching the kick-off holiday movie that evening. It was also always the perfect day to relax prior to the many practices and performances of The Nutcracker with DanceWest Ballet in Naperville where Madeline performed for 13 years and was joined by her little sister Hannah for 4 years. The Snow Queen, Clara, Small Dancing Girl, Dancing Angel, Baby Mouse, and Sugar Plum Fairy were household names in the King house for many years.
Still time was always made for traditional holiday staples such as commemorative ornaments, Santa visits, Christmas cookie baking, and decorating gingerbread houses; as well as venturing to different suburbs to see the variety of light displays and events. The King Family always makes certain to end each adventure with hot chocolate or coffee and celebrate Christmas Cheer in a Cup!
The Konzelman Family of Glen Ellyn/Wheaton
The Konzelman Family welcomes the winter holiday season with Black Friday shopping and the Glen Ellyn Christmas Walk, but the core of their holiday traditions are founded on faith.
A few Saturdays each December, their family of five, along with the members of One Line Church in Wheaton make cards for local firefighters and police. Then, on Christmas Eve morning, they caravan to all the police stations in Wheaton and Glen Ellyn delivering Mariano's donuts and thank you cards.
Their annual festivities also include the One Line Church Christmas Village which embraces the holiday magic with real life reindeers, horse and carriage rides, photos with Santa, ornament and holiday cookie making – and best of all – it’s free for the entire community.
The Pechous Family of Wheaton
Since Megan was a child, her family has hosted a Christmas craft night and together make different Christmas ornaments each year that are passed along to their loved ones and friends. Megan carries this tradition on today, in addition to starting new traditions with her husband Robert.
For the past nine (9) years, Robert and Megan have raised over $21,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in honor of one of their close family members who suffers from MD by encouraging free will donations for those that come to enjoy their Christmas light display at 913 E. Evergreen Street in Wheaton each year.
Robert oversees the lights - designing them, programming them, and making them twirl and move about to music. The couple plans a return of the charitable show starting Sunday, December 6th through Friday, January 1st. You can share in the joy by following https://www.facebook.com/wheatonchristmaslights/.
Lynette Dubovik of Geneva
Lynette is a founding member of the Geneva Art Guild and has been involved in the Geneva Giving Tree since its inception about seven years ago. As an artist, she loves the creative spirit that the members come up with each year for decorating the charitable tree. She takes this passion home to her own freshly cut tree each year that is decorated with family ornaments from 100 years ago, and additionally to another tree that is 100% Star Wars themed.
Traditions hold strong for Lynette and she loves to host a potluck dinner and holiday art shows, as well as continue her annual cookie-palooza – a day long Christmas cookie baking extravaganza that will be held via Zoom this year. The prized Kolachkis, Peanut Butter Cookies, Butter Cookies, Oatmeal Scotchies, Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs and Pecan Bars will still be made, exchanged, and enjoyed! Other annual events, such as brunch at the Walnut Room and the Geneva Christmas Walk may look different this year, but Lynette feels confident the season will still sparkle.
The Krause Family of Naperville
No matter how old Hailey (16) and Hannah (12) get, they enjoy maintaining their annual holiday traditions with their BFFs Danielle (17) and Sailor (14). The four have a long standing tradition of coloring Easter eggs followed by an Easter egg hunt, carving and decorating pumpkins at Halloween, and apple picking at Kuiper’s Family Farm; however, the tradition they love the most is baking cookies for Santa and decorating Gingerbread houses.
They purchase the pre-assembled Gingerbread houses from Whole Foods and ensure everything they use to decorate is edible. The girls have their "must-have" candies, such as red and green Dots, M&Ms, Gumdrops, Pepperidge Farm Gingerbread family cookies, marshmallow Peeps snowmen and trees, coconut flakes, and decorating icing. They complete the houses on disposable baking tins for easy portability and ensure to take the grand finale commemorative photo, complete with icing mustaches on their faces!
LaRae Mudd of Naperville
As a 29-year Naperville resident and a Realtor for HomeSmart Realty Group, LaRae knows all to well that a house is not a home until it is filled with personal memories.
Drawing on these emotions, LaRae began gifting commemorative ornaments to her children, Meghan (23) and Michael (21), each year since they were young. Each adornment would represent a special activity or event from the year prior, so when they put up their tree each Christmas, they could reminisce the fond memories and relive the joy each experience conveyed again and again.
Now at 23, Meghan has her own apartment. She will take all her ornaments to decorate her own very first tree.
As kids mature, they take on family traditions and Meghan surprised her mom by gifting her an ornament commemorating LaRae’s late husband – a sweet and emotional gesture that encompassed a lifetime of remembrances.
Milestone events are encapsuled forever and recollected with the spirit of each season.
In our mission to make spirits bright all season long, we invite you to share these special holiday stories with your friends and family throughout the community.