Christmas Day, my way
These Chicagoans give holiday family traditions the ol' heave ho-ho-ho.
In that way, orphan celebrations focus on bringing people together and fighting the loneliness that can creep up during the holidays as caroling, gift giving and chestnut roasting move into full swing. They’re a great option for people who have to stay in Chicago because work or financial constraints preclude a far-flung family visit. Brooklyn native Greg Coleman, for example, has worked in the retail industry for years, a job that keeps him city-bound during the busy holiday season. In 2004, he and a few neighbors living in the same Gold Coast high rise, all stuck in the city over Christmas, decided to create a new tradition: a progressive Christmas dinner from the top of the building down, stopping at apartments along the way to have a cocktail followed by apps, entrées, dessert and so forth until they reach the participating apartment closest to the bottom and enjoy a white-elephant gift exchange. “It doesn’t break anyone’s bank,” Coleman says. “No one is alone and there’s no pressure to feel like you have to be with family because you have your Chicago friends.” Coleman says the group numbers around a dozen people, and participants are given creative license to host a uniquely festive event (one year, Coleman made margaritas and played Motown Christmas music).
Gomez says these new orphan traditions illustrate just what the holidays should be about. “A holiday ought not to be a routine recurrence,” he says, “but instead a joyful exploration of the here and now with emotionally supportive people, whether it be family or friends or friends as family.” This isn’t to say that carving out a new holiday tradition means leaving anyone out in the cold. Brumm and Edwards say their jaunt downtown isn’t meant to exclude family. Both have birthdays around the holidays and that, coupled with visits over Thanksgiving and New Year’s, means their nearest kin still get plenty of love.
Meanwhile, Lane insists his family has no qualms about making the trek to North Barrington for Christmas Day, especially when noteworthy folk like superstar chef Art Smith occasionally stop by. “When your partner is a famous chef to the stars, there is no resistance at all,” Lane says. “And once they have experienced a Christmas like ours, there is no going back to the way it was.”