‘Tis the season of non-stop Christmas music, sludgy snow, longer commutes, and, of course, Christmas shopping. It can be all too cold, expensive, and exhausting. But here at OHi we still believe that the magic of the holiday season can be found within the home. Whether with friends or family, this is a season of togetherness and tradition. Last year, to celebrate our love of the holidays, for the first 25 days of December our team shared their favorite traditions from the season. This year, we've compiled them all together for you to enjoy. Perhaps you’ll find a new recipe or be reminded of a favorite holiday pastime of your own (which we hope you’ll share with us). From our OHi family to yours, we hope you enjoy these 25 days of holiday traditions.
What better way to kick off our holiday season than with a simple, kid-friendly recipe shared by OHi team member, Tammy Ogaard. Before the Christmas season gets too crazy, Tammy likes to bake these turtle “cookies” with her five-year-old niece. It is so easy for her niece to participate by laying the pretzels out and unrolling the Rolos. Eventually, Tammy hopes to introduce new recipes, but for now this is a must-have favorite. The hardest part is finding the round pretzels (but we have it on good authority that Aldi is the place to start). Be warned, these are addicting!
A favorite Hanukkah tradition for Larry, Rick, and Sabrina Counselbaum is when their family all gets together to light the menorah. They get to eat incredible Jewish delicacies and exchange gifts. For an added splash of fun, they’ve adopted a white elephant gift exchange. Some of the gifts have been so funny or weird that they go straight in the garbage. Regardless of the festivities, though, they always honor and appreciate the history of the holiday and their people. Larry Counselbaum shared this brief history as a refresher for anyone curious about the origins of Hanukkah.
Fake or real? It is the question that plagues the Christmas tree world. For OHi team member, Pam Kautz, the solution is one of each. Every year, her family kicks off the Christmas season by either cutting down a real tree or going to a tree lot the weekend following Thanksgiving. Just add snow, matching red plaid scarves, and a hot beverage for an instant storybook greeting card. After this adventure, they head home to deck their halls, including at least one other fake Christmas tree.
Remember when you were a kid and dreamt of being a princess or an astronaut? OHi team member, Dove Brown, dreamed of being a ballerina. She started taking classes at 3 years old and stopped at 15. Her favorite ballet? The Nutcracker. As a result, she has built up a collection of 20 nutcrackers! They are the showstoppers of her Christmas decorating and help keep the magic of childhood alive during the most magical time of the year. Do you collect anything special during the holiday season?
Day 5Nothing says Christmas Eve like wearing perfectly festive pjs to bed so you’re properly dressed for the main event: Christmas Morning. For OHi team member, Kathy Hoh, she ensures that her family by allowing each member to open one present on Christmas Eve. Spoiler alert for everyone in her family, she cleverly gives them pajamas as the gift! When her children were younger, she would buy them themed pajamas based on their current interests. Some favorites from the past include The Incredibles and Blackhawks patterned items.
Need a Christmas gift idea? OHi team member, Sarah Grotto has a tried and true gift for all your friends. Each year, Sarah bakes her special snickerdoodle cookies or makes the Chex puppy chow recipe to fill customizable jars. It has a personal touch, while still allowing for it to be produced for multiple friends at once. We hope you have will power, because otherwise the cookies may not make it into the jar.
Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holiday season calls for a much-needed date night. Every year around Christmas, OHi team members, Erin and Nick Kautz, get dressed up and head downtown. They grab a nice dinner and then go to see a show. In years past, they have seen Joffrey’s Nutcracker, The Christmas Carol, and Elf.
Hanukkah is a very symbolic holiday from the menorah to the food served. For example, one of Larry Counselbaum’s favorite dishes is Latkes, a fried potato pancake. Eating foods fried in oil is a symbol of the eight days the oil burned in the origin story of Hanukkah. Besides that, who doesn’t love eating fried foods?
Move over humans! There’s a new Christmas tradition in town and it’s exclusively for our favorite four-legged furry friends. A few year’s back, OHi team member, Loren Newman, discovered a photos with Santa event just for dogs! Every year, the Elgin police stations hosts the event where they invite people to bring a donation for the local animal shelter, and in exchange, their pup get’s a photo with Santa and Mrs. Claus! Don’t worry, Loren’s dog, Penny, warmed up to the event after the shock of the first year wore off.
When it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with toys in every store, OHi team member, Brooke McKenzie, takes note. She’ll grab a close friend or family member and head downtown. They’ll traipse from Christmas tree to Christmas tree, ending at Macy’s Department store. They then look at the window displays, making up corny stories to tie the windows together. Finally, they head inside, captivated by the Tiffany ceilings as the go up the escalators to the seventh floor where they eat a meal in the Walnut Room. It’s the perfect capstone where they can warm up and eat with one of the prettiest trees as their backdrop.
If you get the munchies, you’ll want to become best friends with OHi team member, Dove Brown. Her Christmas tradition is to make two yummy snackable treats. The minute fresh cranberries hit the supermarkets she starts making her fan-favorite Cranberry Relish. It’s a freshly tart alternative to the typical cranberries you may experience during the holiday season. Her other treat, cheese wafers, is a family recipe that has been passed down through the generations. Her mom made them when she was a kid and now, she has taken on the endeavor. Full disclosure, these are snack size, so you may consume more than you realize (maybe plan on making a few extra).
What delicious dessert transports you back to your childhood? Every year, OHi team member, Kathy Hoh, asks her what type of cookie they would like her to bake for the holiday season. Every year, without fail, they all request the “Forgotten Cookie”. This difficult meringue cookie is the epitome of home and Christmas for each family member and may only make an appearance once a year because of how difficult it is to make them just right. Sorry Santa, we don’t think there will be any leftovers waiting for you when you drop off the gifts for Christmas.
Imagine it is Christmas morning and you are a kid again. The usual morning grogginess is gone, replaced by feelings of excitement. You wonder if the toy you’ve been dreaming of is waiting under the tree. You hop out of bed and run out to the hallway, but halt as if some invisible wall is preventing you from going down the stairs. Because it is tradition to wait. This is OHi team member, Kim Malito’s Christmas tradition that started when she was a kid and has continued with her own daughter. On Christmas morning the children must wait at the top of the stairs until the parent’s say it’s okay to come down. During that time, the parents get their coffee and relentlessly tease the children saying, “Hmm, I don’t see any presents here!” The kids, of course, are bouncing off the walls, filled with anticipation. When given the signal, they come bounding down the stairs to prove to their parents that Santa did not forget their house.
On Christmas day, after all the presents have been opened, Lizzie, Nick, and Pam Kautz find the time to make one last batch of Christmas cookies called crystals. They are an Italian dish that is basically fried dough. Each person has a different task. While each year Pam and Nick switch off rolling and frying the dough, Lizzie is always the one to cut and tie the cookies.
Go big or go home is the philosophy of OHi team member, Jeff Kolota, and his wife when decorating for Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving they haul out five different Christmas trees! Each one has a different theme, color scheme, shape, and size. We’re just jealous because now they get to rock around their five Christmas trees! Which one is your favorite?
Who doesn’t love a good Christmas cookie? Young and old alike wait all year for the moment when they bite into their favorite treat. For resident dog whisperer and team member, Lizzie Kautz, she takes Christmas baking one step further to include a few “Christmas cookies” for her perfect pup, Lola! Every year, she makes dog treats by scratch that are Christmas themed. Not only are the healthy, but we’ve soon Lola drool over these so they must be tasty!
OHi president, John Kautz, doesn’t get carried away by the holiday hype. For him, it’s a time to schedule intimate gatherings with close friends. It’s a time to remember how grateful you are for loved ones. It’s a time to escape the ice and snow by seeing the latest movies in theater. It’s also a time to dig out the Christmas tree and hang his mother’s ornaments. It’s a simple season stripped of the bells, bows and whistles, leaving what is most important: love and family.
During the holiday season, we are flooded with different types of Christmas Trees. There are the perfectly coned shaped trees, the mega trees used for different city centers, and, of course, you have the occasional Charlie Brown trees with minimal pine needles and sagging branches. For OHi team member, Loren Newman, however, they all pale in comparison to her family Christmas tree… or maybe more accurately, her family Christmas bush. With a width almost equal to its height, getting their tree in through the front door requires a perfectly timed and coordinated running start. Once inside, the tree that often scrapes the ceiling, is perfectly decorated, becoming the focal point for her family’s holiday season. After seeing this tree, the song “O, Christmas Tree” has a whole new meaning!
While growing up, OHi team member, Sarah Grotto always looked forward to her family decorating the house for Christmas a couple weeks after Thanksgiving. The soothing sound of The Carpenter’s Christmas album would drift through the air, as Sarah’s mom would wrap lights around their tree. Meanwhile, Sarah and her nine siblings would be hanging their individualized stockings. Recently, her stocking was passed down to her, so she could continue the tradition in her own home with her husband.
Sometimes you have to roll the dice to find a good holiday tradition that sticks. OHi team member, Cheryl Verhulst, and her family did exactly that with a few choice games that are sure to give your family more than a few laughs! Read more about this tradition!
Every Christmas, when OHi team member, Vikki Basinger, was a kid, her mom would make sugar cookies. As her mom would roll out the circle of dough, Vikki would wait with excitement until she was able to use the Christmas cookie cutters to “make” her own cookies. Once the cookies were put on the pan, Vikki could load them with as many sprinkles as she desired. The tradition has since continued with her kids, so now she gets to experience the sugar rush in a whole new way!
For OHi team member, Brooke McKenzie, it’s all about the holiday magic mixed with movie magic. Due to the heartwarming ending, quotable script, and her dad’s pathetic impression of Jimmy Stewart, every year she and her parents must watch “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Sometimes the viewing has taken place in an old-fashioned theater, like the Tivoli Theater, or in their living room cuddling up with the fireplace and a cup of homemade hot cocoa. Do you have a must-watch Christmas movie?
Two words: Crab. Bar. OHi Team member, Jeff Kolota countdown isn’t until Christmas, but rather until his family’s Christmas Eve Crab Bar. Every year, they all throw on their Crab bibs, explore a variety of sauces and dig into king crab legs (found at Costco). It gives you the buttery, warm feelings only comparable to those of the Holiday season.
Inspired by nostalgia, team member, Ben Bailey has a collection of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer bobble heads. For Ben, stop animation films are a must in his household. Growing up, every year his family would gather around the TV and ring in the Christmas season by watching the multiple Christmas specials. Now, the tradition continues with his son. And while Ben doesn’t have a favorite stop animation Christmas special, he does have two favorite characters: Heat Miser and Snow Miser from A Year Without Santa Claus. If you look closely, you’ll see they’re included in his bobble head collection.
In the honor of traditions, in 2018, the OHi team started a new one they hope will continue for years to come. On the Thursday before Christmas, when we gather for our all-staff meeting and exchange our office secret Santa and Mensch on a bench gifts, we decided to add am Ugly Christmas Sweater competition. Employees were encouraged to wear the ugliest sweater they could find in the hopes of winning an additional gift. From sparkly reindeers and light-up penguins to Elvis Christmas Trees and pinned on ornaments, our staff met all expectations. The first winner ever was team member Ben Bailey, who thought outside of the box by wearing an ugly Christmas vest.
That’s a wrap for our 25 days of Holiday traditions! We hope you enjoyed getting a glimpse into our lives outside of the office. From our family to yours, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season as well