Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, March 2

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Michael / December 3, 2004 2:03 PM

My favorite holiday tradition is pretty simple, but Christmas Eve just wouldn't be the same without it. Since my grandfather was of Italian descent, our Christmas Eve dinner (which was always laid back, compared to the formal Christmas day dinner) always consisted of homemade Italian beef sandwiches, potato salad and some kind of pasta, usually ravioli (also homemade). After my grandfather died fifteen years ago, this tradition died for a while until I insisted that we bring it back. I intend to continue carrying on this tradition when I have children and grandchildren of my own.

daruma / December 3, 2004 2:19 PM

Watching fireworks at Navy Pier and drinking champagne for New Years Eve! And getting that special kiss to ring in the new year.

Thurston / December 3, 2004 2:20 PM

Years ago, my family moved to the Chicago burbs just two days before Christmas. On Christmas day, we didn't have anywhere to go and all our belongings were in boxes, so we went out to eat. We couldn't find anything open until we found Max's Deli in Highland Park, which was open given its predominantly Jewish clientele. We got a kick out of celebrating Christmas with matza ball soup and reuben sandwiches. Since then, no matter where we are around Christmas, my folks and I make a point to go to a Jewish deli - in Chicago, Florida, Connecticut, even Buenos Aires one time.

Andrew / December 3, 2004 2:25 PM

Funny, *my* Italian family's big dinner was Christmas Eve -- stuffed artichokes, zuppa di pesce, spaghetti with fish gravy, broccoli, antepasta... I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. Christmas Day dinner is usually a roast and assorted family favorite dishes, far less lavish than the night before.

As far as traditions go, when I'm at my grandparents' in Scottsdale, AZ, I make sure to take a walk in the desert (what little is left, anyway). Gives me a sense of the peace and harmony the holidays are supposed to celebrate.

Going to Columbus to visit my partner's family is too new to quite have a tradition yet.

robin.. / December 3, 2004 2:35 PM

oh, definitely the eating of the renowned marinated button mushrooms. deelish. also, the "drive in the country" and the "falling asleep watching tv" and the family pitch tournament. i wish it was the holiday break already!

Leo / December 3, 2004 2:37 PM

The post-present opening nap.

sandor / December 3, 2004 3:08 PM

For as long as I can remember, Christmas = going out for chinese food and a movie. When I was growing up, it was an occasion to shmooze with all the other Jewish families in our neighborhood. It was like temple, only tastier.

Maggie / December 3, 2004 3:33 PM

I have two: taking my niece to see the windows at Marshall Fields - we always do them in reverse order, for whatever reason. I thought she would be too cool as a 14-year-old to go with me this year but she wants to do it, much to my happiness.

The other is going to a movie on Christmas Day. My family is also Italian (hmm, gnocchi) so we do all of our activities on Christmas Eve. We never had anything to do on Christmas Day until Godfather III (what a disappointment) premiered and we all went to see it. It turned into a yearly event and now it's my very Catholic family and the Jewish families at the movie theater.

Angela / December 3, 2004 3:40 PM

Watching Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas.

Ken / December 3, 2004 4:03 PM

Doing nothing ranks pretty high.

Alice / December 3, 2004 4:15 PM

When we were kids, my dad used to take my sister, brother and I to a matinee every Christmas Eve. I thought it was a fun tradition until I got older and realized it was just an excuse to get us all out of the house for a couple hours so Mom could wrap the presents.

Benjy / December 3, 2004 4:17 PM

Growning up, I remember a number of Christmas Day visits to the Museum of Science and Industry. It was open, and because it was Christmas it was nearly empty. And we usually ran into our Rabbi and his family.

For nearly the past decade, my family has been going to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the two weeks around Christmas & New Years with a couple other families. We started going when I was in college and we've continued every year. Even as we've grown into adulthood, we continue to go, often bringing down our significan others. The parents enjoy playing what they've termed "Survivor Island" where they all grill the boyfriends and girlfriends we bring down to determine whether they're worthy of joining the clan. So far, the parents have been right, with those getting "voted off the island" ultimately moving on and those getting positive reviews leading to one marriage and one engagement. Wonder what they'll think of my girlfriend this year...

tony / December 3, 2004 4:51 PM

Being a Filipino Catholic is awesome this time of year. Sure, we have a tradition of going to Mass for nine straight days prior to Christmas, but there's always kickass food afterward. Free food. Can't argue with free food.

miss ellen / December 3, 2004 4:58 PM

a couple:

marshall field's state street to see the tree, the windows & shop a bit. hitting it up tomorrow actually.

also, after the big family christmas eve, we used to come home & watch "it's a wonderful life", but since my brother moved away, we haven't been as diligent with that one....

lastly, playing cards after christmas dinner died down. always fun, good way to end a long day.

Brandy / December 3, 2004 8:41 PM

Amen, Angela!

+ chocolate fondue on Christmas Eve.

Used to be a three-course fondue dinner. Cheese appetizer, oil/meat main and chocolate for dessert.

eep / December 4, 2004 1:20 AM

My Christmas tradition is always hanging the thousands (I'm not exaggerating, honest) of ornaments on my parents' Christmas tree. My dad always got annoyed, my sister got bored, and so it ended up being Mom and me. It became our tradition. Then, on Christmas Eve, we'd turn off all the lights except for the tree and watch an old copy of "A Child's Christmas in Wales" that we taped off PBS in the late 80s. It's probably one of my favorite family traditions.

Gordon / December 4, 2004 2:03 AM

Holiday sex!

amyc / December 4, 2004 6:42 AM

Last year on Xmas night, after all the hullaballoo of visiting with my partner's family downstate, the two of us went to the Music Box for a Charlie Chaplin movie. The streets were absolutely deserted -- I had never seen anything like it in the city. It wasn't just that there was no traffic; all the parking spaces were empty, all the stores were closed, everything was quiet and still. We parked right in front of the Music Box entrance, and I started jumping around in the middle of Southport just because I could. It was beautiful and amazing (and a little bit eerie, like maybe the zombie hordes had devoured all the Chicagoans while we were in Peoria, and we were the last people alive). I think this will be our new Xmas tradition.

leah / December 4, 2004 9:12 AM

We are in between traditions right now. With my sister pregnant with her first, I think they will be more important starting next year.

But I always loved sitting at the kids table eating tuna salad sandwiches while everyone else was tortured with my grandpa's famous OYSTER STEW. GROSS!

Then we would drive through Miller Drive, a small culdesac in Terre Haute, Indiana, where everyone does their house up with lights.

Then Christmas morning was reseved for the family. We would eat clementines and peppermint sticks and open presents.

Sarah / December 4, 2004 9:46 AM

Christmas always meant going to mom and dad's and opening 1 present the night before, then the next morning we opened presents, always found an orange in the bottom of our stocking and ate dad-made eggs benedict with mimosas for breakfast.

Dad is gone now so we still get the orange, but we are still working out new traditions (the house is gone, too).

vit / December 4, 2004 10:19 AM

We have crab and spinach soup on Christmas eve, and a huge lamb dinner on Christmas Day. When my grandmother was alive she would make a lovely plumb pudding to go with it, I miss that, but making it is such a complicated afair I'm not sure that I'm up for it, anyone know any plumb pudding receipes that don't take about 4 hours?

When I was a kid of course we'd go look at the Marshall Field's windows (I still manage to get over there and take a peek every year as I work in the loop).

Lisa / December 4, 2004 4:29 PM

Opening that one present on Christmas Eve... it used to be a present from Grandma when she was alive, but since then it's been a set of pjs from mom and dad.

And my mom's cream puffs.... mmmmm.... cream puffs....

pismire / December 4, 2004 5:47 PM

We wake up VERY EARLY to open presents on Christmas morning. But because everyone has to wait a WHOLE YEAR for Christmas, we like to open our presents very slowly to make it last longer. We open one at a time and every third round or so we stop to eat one of the delicious breakfast dishes my mom made or to eat Christmas cookies. Usually it takes us about 7 hours to open all the gifts. Afterward (and of course we are still in our pjs) we all take naps.

Emily / December 4, 2004 8:53 PM

Every year, I celebrate the traditional "Jew Christmas," otherwise known as a movie or two and chinese food on Christmas day, because they are the only things open (or used to be... does anything close for Christmas anymore?). While everyone else is opening presents, my friends and family all eat General Tso's chicken and then take our blissfully MSG-filled selves to see as many movies as we can handle in a day. Because really, what more do you need? Ahhh, the perks of being Jewish...

Fred / December 5, 2004 4:55 PM

Am I the only one who still drinks and hangs out on the ledge?

Dawson / December 5, 2004 6:05 PM

Drinking egg nog

csc / December 5, 2004 7:38 PM

Hell yeah, Emmet Otter! I always liked the rival band--you know, the one fronted by the weasel who sounds like Thom Yorke when he snarls--the best, though.

Oh, and when we were kids, we would always bury my dad in all the discarded wrapping paper once we'd opened all of our presents. We probably have at least 15 years' worth of pictures of his protruding arm giving a thumbs up through a sea of red, green, and gold. He's had both hips replaced in the last couple of years, but if we asked him, I know he'd still get on the floor and let us do it. What a guy!

Laura D. / December 5, 2004 11:09 PM

-I always make a trip to Daley Plaza's Christkindlemarket for some potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce, and maybe a cup of hot cocoa.
-Growing up we always got those 12-packs of lifesavers in our stocking.
-Now our family raditions are in transition with a new nephew born this year. I'm hosting x-mas day for the first time in chicago with the fam.

wc / December 6, 2004 8:58 AM

Christmas is especially great in the Assyrian church - I love our mass. They always have some little girl or boy sing about Jesus's birth in Assyrian during communion and it's so adorable it makes me wanna cry!

Pete / December 6, 2004 9:04 AM

My family's traditional Swedish dinner on Christmas Eve: meatballs, ham, potato sausage, Lutefisk (which I don't eat but always enjoy making fun of), rice pudding with lingonberries, scalloped potatoes, pickled herring, Bond Ost cheese, and--if it's cold enough--a hot, intoxicating glass or two of Glog.

Technically, our Christmas Eve dinner doesn't take place on Christmas Eve any more, since my sisters and I all have our own families now and don't live near my parents, but we always get together the weekend before or the weekend after Christmas, and have our dinner then.

Mike / December 6, 2004 9:35 AM

When I'm home in Minneapolis, my mom and I always go to "Mary's Place" which is kind of a soup kitchen/shelter/community center. Families come in there with lists of who they have in their immediate family (for example: 1 daughter-Age 11, 2 sons-13 and 15), we take the lists and go into a warehouse and fill up one giant bag for each kid.
I usually try to throw a good mix in there; books and Barbies, kinda like making them eat their vegetables before they can have desert. The only people really having a good time are the volunteers and the really little kids, the parents and the older kids never really expect anything but usually there's something nice for them among the stacks of toys, clothes and books too.

margot / December 6, 2004 9:53 AM

For the last three years, my boyfriend and I have been going to erwin for our own Christmas dinner the weekend before we go to our respective hometowns for Christmas. We always manage to get the same window booth. It has become one of my favorite traditions.

GB store

Recently on Fuel

Urban Ethos [26]
What is Chicago's "urban ethos"?

Cool Glass of... [16]
What're you drinking?

Supreme Decision [22]
What's your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Taking it to the Streets [20]
Chicago Street Fairs: Revolting or Awesome?

I Can Be Cruel [9]
Be real: what is the meanest thing you've ever done?

View the complete archive

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15