Making your own holiday traditions
These Chicagoans give holiday family traditions the ol' heave ho-ho-ho.
For Rich Lane and Jaime Laurita, Christmas Day is like a Macy’s-inspired storybook. They wake up to not one, but two full-size Christmas trees. The tree on the second floor of the couple’s house showcases red and gold decorations galore while the downstairs tree sports a groovy fish-ornament theme. The staircase railings are laced with evergreen garland, more than two dozen stuffed Santas populate the house, holiday cards line the windows in the front room, ornaments dangle from the ceilings, and five mini trees adorn a massive island in the kitchen. Outside, a front yard full of evergreens strung up with lights puts a festive icing on the cake. But unlike so many Chicagoans who schlep to distant suburbs and far-away places to endure relatives they don’t like, Lane and Laurita have hijacked the Norman Rockwell holiday fantasy and reclaimed it as their own.
Lane, 38, and Laurita, 42, have been together for nearly ten years and live on 1.5 acres in suburban North Barrington. Lane is a teacher at Hersey High School while his partner, Laurita, has the enviable job of backstage coordinator for Madonna and personal chef to touring performers like Sting. Both men get along just fine with their parents but have taken to celebrating the holidays on their own terms—and turf. They switch up their celebrations every other year: They spend odd years traveling to sunnier climes like Mexico and Belize, while hosting lavish, megainclusive holiday celebrations for friends and coworkers on the Saturday before the 25th during even years—as well as Christmas Days at home that include Lane’s family, who live nearby. The mission, at least for type-A personality Laurita, is to do Christmas their way. “Jaime wants the holidays to be his vision,” Lane says. “When you have it yourself you can control that vision. He doesn’t want to go over to someone else’s house and have a mediocre Christmas. To him, Christmas is the holiday.”