Turtel Onli

This issue is our gift to you, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. In these pages you’ll find a Holiday Gift Guide filled with South Side establishments where you’ll find presents and local personalities guaranteed to spread holiday cheer. We’ve also curated creative writing and interviews with South Siders on the traditions and memories that have made the holidays special for them. Happy Holidays!

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Holiday Gift Guide

Crafts & Classes

For Anyone Yearning for Yarn

Yarnify! is a haven for knitting and crocheting enthusiasts, offering needles, hooks, patterns, and yarns. This shop is not only a retailer of fibrous necessities, but also a welcoming community of artists, ready to provide professional guidance on personal projects or instruction in larger class settings. Beginner classes generally take place over the span of five Saturday sessions and cover the basics of knitting or crocheting. More advanced classes offer instruction on specific techniques and patterns, such as felted clogs or thrummed mittens.
Yarnify!, 47 W. Polk St. Monday–Friday, 11am–7pm; Saturday, 10am–6pm; Sunday, 12pm–5pm. (312) 583-9276. yarnify.com (Alexandra Epstein)

For the Adventurous Home Chef
Ranjana’s Indian Cooking Lessons

No more excusing curry-fear, roti-phobia, or any other trepidation about subcontinental cooking—Ranjana’s Indian Cooking Lessons promise to demystify this wonderful cuisine. Hands-on instruction takes place in the warmth of Ranjana’s home, where she teaches the handling of Indian spices, along with vegetarian curries, paneers, daal, and masala. Ranjana has been offering up her knowledge for three decades, garnering rave reviews from Chicago chefs and recognition in the Tribune. Class ends as all cooking classes should—with a nine-course feast consisting of the student’s own work.
Ranjana’s Indian Cooking Lessons, 6730 S. Euclid Ave. Monday and Thursday, 6:15pm–9:15pm; Saturday 9:15am-12:15pm. Registration required. (773) 355-9559. indiancookingclass.com (Morley Musick)

For Your Air Guitarist
Muzicnet School of Music

Do you know someone who is just dying to take their air guitar skills to the next level? A set of guitar lessons from Muzicnet School of Music is the perfect gift to bring out their inner rock star. Three-year-olds and one-hundred-year-olds alike can learn to play anything from piano to woodwind instruments, and even voice. With relatively low prices––an hour-long lesson will cost you between twenty and twenty-five dollars––this is a gift that will harmonize well with any music lover.
Muzicnet School of Music, 8725 S. State St. Monday–Wednesday, Friday, 2pm–7pm; Saturday, 9am–3pm. (773) 487-7529. muzicnet.net (Margaret Mary Glazier)

For People of the Cloth
The Quilter’s Trunk

Here, you can find over two thousand bolts of fabric, three thousand spools of thread, and another couple thousand different types of buttons. For novices, there’s a “start sewing” gift pack, which includes basic materials and an introductory book. Seasoned quilters may enjoy a traveler’s gift pack, complete with mini iron and mini cutting mat for any on-the-go quilting needs, or a gift card, so that they can choose from the store’s dizzying array of colorful materials.
The Quilter’s Trunk, 10352 S. Western Ave. Tuesday–Saturday, 9am–5pm; Sunday, 12pm–4pm. (773) 980-1100. thequilterstrunk.com (Hafsa Razi)

Home Goods

For the Windowsill Botanist
Verdant Matter

The temperature might be dropping, but at Verdant Matter, the most Pinterest-worthy locale this side of the Garfield Park Conservatory, it’s springtime all year. Since its opening down the street from Thalia Hall in September, Pilsen’s newly founded combination gift shop and succulent greenhouse has become a hub for local horticulturists. From the rustic wood surfaces and glazed ceramics to the Christmas lights and hanging planters, there’s something for everyone. Expect Cactaceae, Echeveria, and more aloe than you can shake a stick at.
Verdant Matter, 1152 W. 18th St. Tuesday–Sunday, 11am–7pm. facebook.com/verdantmatter (Christopher Good)

For Homes in Need of Sprucing Up
Treasures Depot

Shannon Seu
Shannon Seu

This independent thrift store is considered a well-kept secret by its devoted fans, a group that consists of both locals and lucky visitors to the neighborhood, who make the trip on the regular to score some of the city’s best deals on used furniture and other housewares. Household items are the main attraction here, but even those with perfectly furnished homes will find something to love among the shop’s collection of clothing and antiques.
Treasures Depot, 3455 S. Archer Ave. Monday–Saturday, 10am–8pm; Sunday, 10am–5pm. (773) 847-6895. (Eleonora Edreva)

For an Overhead Treat
JoJo The Balloon Lady

Jo Ann Williams has been serving the Washington Heights community for over sixteen years on the corner of South May and 95th, specializing in balloons, flowers, and gift baskets. Williams will decorate for any kind of party you’re planning to throw: she says, “You name it, we do it.” There are holiday gift baskets available as well—one of the more popular selections is called, enticingly, the “Victoria’s Secret.” And for the lazier or busier holiday decorators, Williams even sells dressed Christmas trees with ornaments and all the trimmings.
JoJo The Balloon Lady, 1116 W. 95th St. (773) 298-8625. jojotheballoonlady.net (Jonathan Poilpre)

For the Fragrance Fanatic
Aromatic Synsation

This Woodlawn gem is the perfect one-stop spot for cosmetics, vintage clothing items, and, as the name suggests, aromatherapy products. Stop by the boutique to select from over 100 options of body oils or home fragrances. Then pick out an aromatherapy lamp from an assortment of shapes, sizes, and colors. Finish off by choosing a unique vintage clothing item or accessory to complete the ultimate holiday gift bundle.
Aromatic Synsation, 6540 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 12pm–7pm; Thursday, 12pm–5pm. (773) 324-6335. (Sara Cohen)

Clothing, Hair, Mind, & Body

For Chicagoans Who Have Considered Horses When CTA isn’t Enuf
1st Choice Fashions Inc.

The West has come to the Midwest. With a collection of cowboy boots and hats that rival any rodeo kiosk in Texas, 1st Choice Fashions offers an array of texana clothing while staying true to the humble roots of the Midwest with their selections of affordable button-downs. The diverse matching belts and buckles combinations, the collection of sturdy wallets, and other accessories compliment any cowboy-in-training. If the Wild West is too wild, blouses, blue jeans, and other more casual pieces of clothing are also available.
1st Choice Fashions Inc. Western Wear, 10518 S. Ewing Ave. Monday–Wednesday, 11am–6pm; Thursday–Saturday, 11am–8pm; Sunday, 11am–3pm. (773) 731-6000. (Ada Alozie)

For Fashionistas
Urban Renew Boutique

Shannon Seu
Shannon Seu

Searching for gifts for your fashion-forward friend? Chic cousin? Stylish sister? Look no further than this trendy Little Italy consignment store. Featuring unused or lightly-used seasonal clothing and accessories ranging in from modern to vintage, this shop could supply the perfect holiday garment for anyone. Prices run reasonably, with jeans costing less than $20, and designer bags going for at most $250. Can’t make it to University Village? Visit these tech-savvy youngsters on their Etsy shop in cyberspace.
Urban Renew Boutique, 925 S. Loomis St. Tuesday–Thursday, 12pm–5pm; Friday-Saturday 12pm–6pm; Sunday, 12pm–4pm. (312) 952-1086. urbanrenewchicago.com (Sara Cohen)

For the Pampered Pooch

A spot where you can find both human and canine couture? This boutique is the cat’s dog’s pajamas! Shoes and purses are the highlights for human fashionistas, while doggie shoppers can pick up special treats and toys such as Manolo Barkniks or Jimmy Chews. Fashion hounds are sure to be satisfied with the wide range of doggie outfits, whether your pup prefers knitted sweaters or dresses, sports jerseys or bow ties. Lily, Divas-n-Dogs CEO Lona Reiling’s rescue Chihuahua, is often on hand to offer her friendly sartorial advice.
Divas-n-Dogs, 7142 S. Exchange Ave. Winter hours: Thursday, 11:30am–6pm; Friday, 12pm–6:30pm; Saturday, 11am–3pm; other times available by appointment. (773) 349-2334. divasndogs.com (Olivia Stovicek)

For Elegant Wicker Park Refugees
The Silver Room

When it became clear that a changing Wicker Park no longer had space for the mix of creative projects that he called The Silver Room, Eric Williams packed up and relocated his shop to Hyde Park. In the handful of months since then, the shop has retained its eclectic flair. It has jewelry, t-shirts, an art gallery, and, naturally, a juice bar—the business case for which writes itself. But the jewelry is sleek, elegant, and customizable, and the shop is approaching its twentieth anniversary, so Williams must be doing something right.
The Silver Room, 1506 E. 53rd St. Monday–Saturday, 11am–8pm; Sunday 11am–6pm. (773) 947-0024. thesilverroom.com (Adam Thorp)

For People Looking to Get Back to Their Roots
The Curl Kitchen

This is the store for anyone ready to embrace his or her natural look and master the art of curly hair. The Curl Kitchen is the authority on healthy hair, offering a plethora of natural and curl-friendly products, including curl boosters for any type of wave. All textures of curls are catered to here, with products for both men and women. The shop’s Bronzeville location is conveniently adjacent to Huetiful Salon, another establishment with a primary focus on maintaining pure and healthy locks.
The Curl Kitchen, 3428 S. King Dr. Tuesday–Saturday, 11am–7pm; Sunday, by appointment only. (312) 273-3646. thecurlkitchen.com. (Alexandra Epstein)

For the Fashion-Forward
Bronzeville Boutique

This boutique brought cutting-edge women’s fashion to Bronzeville nearly twenty-five years ago and is still going strong today. The shop specializes in fancier dress, with a wide variety of show-stopping dresses and high heels, but even lovers of casual wear can stop in to pick up a Chicago Bears T-shirt or a comfy knit sweater. All style-related questions can be directed to the in-store wardrobe stylists, who provide personalized shopping assistance to help every woman find her perfect look.
Bronzeville Boutique, 4259 S. King Dr. Monday–Saturday, 11am–8pm; Sunday, 11am–5pm. (773) 891-4473. bronzevilleboutique.net (Eleonora Edreva)

For the Nostalgic Fashionista
Comet Vintage

Go-Go boots, pillbox hats, tie-dye tank tops, and so much more is hidden away in this Pilsen vintage boutique. With a focus on women and men’s styles from the sixties and seventies, Comet Vintage Comet believes you should make fashion, not war. If someone you know is missing a rad pair of bell-bottom jeans, a groovy miniskirt or hip peasant blouse, look no further.
Comet Vintage, 1320 W. 18th St. Sunday–Monday, 12pm–6pm; Tuesday¬–Thursday, 12pm–7pm; Friday–Saturday, 11am–8pm. (312) 773-7327. cometvintagechicago.com (Margaret Mary Glazier)

For the Wellness-Minded
Life Organics

Whether you’re on the hunt for a fruity scrub or a good hair product for curly hair, looking for counseling on nutrition and healthy living, or thinking about hosting a spa party, Greater Grand Crossing’s Life Organics has you covered. Earth-friendly, locally made, and for the most part under the $20 mark, Life Organic’s various skin and hair products make for affordable and thoughtful gifts, especially as the dry winter months approach.
Life Organics, 435 E. 75th St. Tuesday–Friday, 10am–3pm; Saturday, 10am–2pm; Sunday and Monday, by appointment only. (312) 324-4480. lifeorganicsonline.com (Emeline Posner)

For Generous Souls and Those in Need
First Lutheran Church of the Trinity

Bridgeport’s First Lutheran Church of the Trinity adheres to the Bible’s instructions to “Love your neighbor as yourself” by opening “God’s Closet” to the public three times a week. This clothing pantry offers donators a “green” means of repurposing used goods and gives members of the Bridgeport community an alternative venue to look for clothing and other items. This holiday season, enjoy the gift of giving by contributing clothing, toys, and small appliances.
First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, 643 W. 31st St. Tuesday, 5pm–7pm; Friday, 10am–12pm; Sunday, after 10:30am worship. (312) 842-7390. sites.google.com/site/firsttrinitylutheranchicago (Sonia Schlesinger)

Books, Music, Games, & Trinkets

For the Bookworm
Sandmeyer’s Bookstore

Fernando Pessoa once called literature “the most agreeable way of ignoring life.” If so, it’s hard to imagine a better place to ignore life than Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, a literati enclave tucked away on Printer’s Row. Independent and family-owned since 1982, Sandmeyer’s is defined by helpful staff, hardwood floors, and a sense of community—in short, everything that a Kindle can’t offer. It’s too cold to go outside, but it’s just the right weather to turn over a new leaf and pick up a page-turner.
Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, 714 S. Dearborn St. Monday–Wednesday and Friday 11am–6:30pm; Thursday, 11am–8pm; Saturday, 11am–5pm; Sunday, 11am–4pm. (312) 922-2104. sandmeyersbookstore.com (Christopher Good)
For Kids and Kids at Heart

Shannon Seu
Shannon Seu

“Oh, how cute!” is an exclamation you’ll hear often while walking through this whimsical little store. Its colorful interior is home to shelves of stuffed animals, school supplies, toys, and just about any other kind of unnecessary-but-irresistible knick-knack your inner child has ever wanted. It’s known for having one of the largest collections of Hello Kitty-related merchandise in Chinatown, and its extensive selection of origami folding paper is also not to be missed.
Giftland, 2212 S. Wentworth Ave. (312) 225-0088. (Eleonora Edreva)

For Trinkets, Spice, and Something Nice
Chinatown Bazaar

This cozy, cluttered shop is located in the heart of Chinatown, and its classic red décor matches the neighborhood’s colorful gate. Chinatown Bazaar is a great place to pick up a few low-priced souvenirs commemorating your visit, such as a chopstick training set or a paper lantern. The store is equally known for its wide selection of clothing and brocade cloths, as well as traditional items such as tea sets, which can all be had for reasonable prices. Can’t choose from the variety? The staff is always happy to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Chinatown Bazaar, 2221 S. Wentworth Avenue. Monday–Friday, 10am–5pm. (312) 225-1088. (Anne Li)

For the Bargain Hunter
Bookie’s Paperbacks & More

As the temperature drops, there’s no better time to start a book. Bookie’s offers a large selection of both used and new novels with a special 3 for $1 shelf. Not only does it sell literature for cheap, but with a wide offering of puzzles and games, there’s a gift here regardless of age, from a Marvel comic for your child to a game of Monopoly for the family. Don’t forget a Bookie’s gift card for that co-worker you pulled for Secret Santa.
Bookie’s Paperbacks & More, 2419 W. 103rd St. Monday–Sunday, 10am–7pm. (773) 239-1110. bookiespaperbacks.com (Ada Alozie)

For the Hi-Fi Devotee
Let’s Boogie Records & Tapes

Much has been said about the return of vinyl in the twenty-first century—but at Let’s Boogie, the music speaks for itself. Now entering its fourth decade in Bridgeport, Let’s Boogie has everything from rhythm and blues to rock ’n’ roll on analog audio formats. Whether you’re an old-school audiophile looking for Neil Young white-label singles or a cratedigger in search of samples, there’s plenty to chew on if you prefer your music in rounds per minute instead of gigabytes.
Let’s Boogie Records & Tapes, 3321 S. Halsted St. Monday–Friday, 11am–6pm; Saturday, 11am–5pm; Sunday, 12pm–3pm. Cash only. (773) 254-0139. (Christopher Good)

For Fans of All of the Above

Shannon Seu
Shannon Seu

Forget the rest of these places—so boring, so predictable. The pressure of a storefront inevitably leads to a drift into conformity, and nothing sucks the fun out of life like a sure thing. Instead, check out the roiling ferment of capitalism that Back of the Yards is pleased to call Swap-O-Rama. The flea market’s website claims that its Ashland location attracts 1,100 merchants and 25,000 visitors every weekend, angling for every sort of deal.
Swap-O-Rama, 4100 S. Ashland Ave. Thursday, 7am–3pm ($1 for adults; $.50 for children and seniors); Saturday–Sunday, 7am–4pm ($2 for adults; $1 for children and seniors). Children under 7 always free. (708) 344-7300. swap-o-rama.com/en/ashland-ave (Adam Thorp)


For Sweet Satisfaction
Scafuri Bakery

These scrumptious Italian cookies can be shipped throughout the United States, with collections at $16 a pound. More impressive, though, are Scafuri’s cakes. These layered desserts are made to order, with choices of buttercream, cake, and filling flavors. From classic vanilla to adventurous orange cake, paired with anything from Bailey’s buttercream to lemon curd filling, there is no shortage of inspiring choices. These creative cakes range from $30 to $150, depending on if you need to feed ten or sixty people. We won’t tell anyone if you keep it all to yourself; when it comes to these masterpieces, it might be best to have your cake and eat it too.
Scafuri Bakery, 1337 W. Taylor St. Tuesday–Sunday, 7am–4pm. (312) 733-8881. scafuribakery.com (Anne Li)

For People Who Eat Local
The Back of the Yards Community Market

You’ll find no greater collection of local food producers than that at the Back of the Yards Community Market. Located at The Plant, an industrial space repurposed for sustainable agriculture and social business, the market hosts vendors based in Chicago. Come pick up vegetables, saltwater prawns, and honey grown sustainably at The Plant, coffee beans from Four Letter Word Coffee, savory pies from Pleasant House Bakery, or Afghan saffron from Rumi Spices. And don’t forget to bring your Link card—Link dollars are doubled up to $25!
The Back of the Yards Community Market, 1400 W. 46th St. Saturday, December 5, 11am–2pm. (773) 847-5523. plantchicago.com (Darren Wan)

For Your Favorite Caffeine Addicts
Kusanya Cafe

Phil Sipka opened Kusanya in 2013 to facilitate local empowerment and to provide residents with a gathering space. Brick-walled and intimate, this West Englewood café offers breakfast, lunch, a wide variety of drinks, and free Wi-Fi. Food options range from grits to fresh mozzarella sandwiches; drinks include lattes, flavored lemonades, and everything in between. With Kusanya gift cards ($10 and up), last-minute holiday shoppers can give the gift of support for a local business and an always needed caffeine fix.
Kusanya Cafe, 825 W. 69th St. Monday–Saturday, 7am–7pm. (773) 675-4758. kusanyacafe.showitsite.com (Sonia Schlesinger)

For Your Honey
Pullman Community Apiary

Housed on the old Pullman Palace Car Factory grounds, the apiary is maintained by the twenty-two-member “Pullman Beeks” group, who share the space with the Pullman Urban Gardens, making their organic products especially flavorful. Honey sells for $1 an ounce in five-ounce or ten-ounce jars; pure beeswax may be purchased upon special request. Register for Master Gardener Edith McDonald’s $70/person six-week beginning beekeeper class in January if you’re seeking gifts for aspiring apiarists; they’ll surely think it’s the bee’s knees.
Pullman Community Apiary, 11057 Cottage Grove Ave. (773) 660-2341. (Sara Cohen)

For the Sandwich Hound
Calabria Imports

Normally, it would require a stretch of the imagination to consider a sandwich a holiday present. But after trying Calabria Imports’ classic “Freddy”—a transcendent red-sauced puck of a sausage sandwich—you shouldn’t have any trouble. And if for some reason you’d like to buy other food-based gifts, Calabria has you covered with an array of imported olive oils, homemade cookies, prosciutto, and a formidable wall of giardiniera. Catering and gift cards, in twenty-five or ten-dollar increments, are also available from this specialty Italian grocery.
Calabria Imports, 1905 W. 103rd St. Monday–Friday, 9:30am–7pm; Saturday, 9:30am–6pm. (773)-396-5800. calabria-imports.com (Morley Musick)

For the Empty Vases
Full Blossom Florist

Full Blossom Florist is the perfect shop for those that love beautiful flower arrangements and giving back to the community. Part of the shop’s profits go toward funding funeral services for victims of gun violence. Flower arrangements range from sixteen to forty-five dollars and can be delivered anywhere in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. Not only are these arrangements gorgeous, but you can be sure that your money is supporting an important cause.
Full Blossom Florist, 316 E. 75th St. Monday–Saturday, 10am–6pm. (773) 891-5291. (Margaret Mary Glazier)

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Holiday Histories


This past weekend, I sat in a Woodlawn cafe talking with South Siders about how they spend the holidays. As people recounted stories and traditions, many seemed to relive past holiday seasons, their favorite parts ranging from the spiritual, to the communal, to the culinary. Here are some of those memories. (Sonia Schlesinger)

Rebekah Wielgos
Member of the Shrine of Christ the King church in Woodlawn

Every year at the Shrine our focus is on giving, and we believe that God gives himself to us in a very special way on Christmas by becoming incarnate, and being born, and God becoming man, and we are so excited that he’s coming that we want to make his house as beautiful as possible. And so every Christmas we bring in something like twelve live Christmas trees all festooned with twinkle lights. We have this beautiful, almost life-sized nativity, and every year the Saturday before Christmas a bunch of us will come and get together, and we will decorate the church, clean the church, try to make it as beautiful as possible for the coming of our infant king. On Christmas we have midnight mass, which is so beautiful, and then a quieter 8am mass, and then the 10am high mass, and then after that there’s usually a social.

I come from a big Polish family on my dad’s side, and on Christmas Eve we all go to vigil mass. Earlier in the day, my dad makes his famous key lime cheesecake, which is a family recipe. After mass, we go to my grandparents’ house, and they have a big house, which is great because there are a lot of aunts and uncles and cousins and we are all each others’ godparents and godchildren. So we’ll all get together, eat dinner, talk, and then the little kids will remind us that there are presents downstairs, we go downstairs, and per grandma’s rules we sing Christmas carols before we open presents. We almost always sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Joy to the World,” I think, and then we exchange presents with godparents. We usually get one or two from grandma and grandpa and one or two from our own parents, and then very late at night we all get home. On Christmas morning nobody’s allowed to stir before 8am. We open presents, have breakfast together as a family, try to have sort of a quiet day, and then we have kind of a special dinner for Christmas.

Charles Donegan
From North Kenwood

We have one son who’s grown, and he’s got eleven-year-old twin boys now, and it’s very meaningful to have them there for Christmas. I mean, Christmas is for everyone, but especially for the children. When I was a boy, like a lot of kids, I tried to stay up until Santa Claus came. Try as I might, I was never able to stay up until Santa Claus came, and a lot of times when I did wake up the next morning, my mother might say, “Well, he came ten or fifteen minutes after you went to sleep,” and I didn’t accept the fact that I just missed it. So I remember that quite a bit; I was so disappointed I wasn’t able to see Santa Claus face-to-face. Our son did similar things, I think.

One Christmas that I recall—we used to have a dog, his name was Jumbo. And at my wife’s mother’s house at 53rd and Michigan, we would open the presents for this person and this person and they all seemed cheerful. So after a while, that dog started growling. We said, “What’s wrong with him?” Well, he was very smart, and he’d see he wasn’t getting a present. We got stuff together and put it in a box and said, “This is for Jumbo!” and he just started wagging his tail, and he was all happy, and we won’t forget that. I can’t remember the present. It might have been a stuffed bear or something like that, but I remember…he was happy at the end.

As a child in particular, or maybe even later, Christmas night, just to see the ornaments on the tree and look out…it just felt, you know, somewhat surreal, but it felt delightful. This is a night we would think about Christmas songs and stories, about the three wise men and all of that, goodwill, peace on earth and so forth, and hoping that that becomes a reality, so that’s just some of the things that I remember about Christmas.

Melissa Hamilton
From Kenwood

Our family has a lot of traditions mostly around food, like most Americans of course. For instance, this past Thanksgiving I made a cake, and it’s called a 7 Up Pound Cake. You put 7 Up in the batter, it’s delicious, and it has the lemon flavor to the cake and it’s really good.

In terms of traditions, for example, we just went to Zoolights, because we’re new here; we’ve been here a little over a year and we did that last year…I have small children, so I just like to expose them to all that the city has to offer, so you know the lights and everything. So that’s what we traditionally do of course, putting up the tree, decorations, and things like that. We always adopt a family every year, too, for the holidays. Adopting a family is a family that is, you know, has needs, and if we’re able to meet those needs regarding like if they need clothing or small appliances or toys for the kids, that’s something we like to do and that’s our way of giving back because we know that that’s part of it, too. We know that if you’re fortunate to have more, to give to others, and I want my children to know the value of that.

Djenne Clayton with sons Kenny Clayton (age 11) and Joseph Clayton (age 9)
From North Kenwood

DC: I think our biggest family tradition is just getting together with family to share a large meal. I think that’s their [her sons’] favorite part of the holiday. We usually host, and we’ll make something and then we’ll just eat until we fall asleep. We always make homemade rolls and make a cake of some sort from scratch, and [to sons], you like your grandmother’s macaroni and cheese.
KC: It’s the bomb. And our favorite cake is the chocolate.
DC: Most of our family is here, but they have one grandmother who will come in from Seattle to spend the holiday with extended family. But for the most part aunts, uncles, everyone lives nearby.
KC: We open our presents on Christmas morning. My favorite was when we got the Xbox two years ago.
JC: And the Wii four years ago.
KC: And I guess that’s it. The video games.
DC [to sons]: What’s your favorite memory on Christmas?
KC: Opening the presents.
DC: Every year, the same recurring memory.
JC: Getting up at 1am.
DC: You mean 5am?
JC: Last year it was 1am, to go see the presents.
KC: I like to talk trash to my uncles.
DC: Oh, that’s a Christmas tradition? I think that’s an all-year-round thing….We’re just grateful that we have family able to get together and celebrate.

Damaris Woodbury
From Woodlawn

Our immediate family are not around us, so our friends become our family. We usually do a Friendsgiving, where friends invite us over to their house and things like that, and then because we are transplants to Chicago we usually spend the Christmas holiday in Puerto Rico, which is where my family is from.

We’ve been in the Woodlawn area since 2003. We really enjoy this area and all it has to offer. We’re also members of the Museum of Science and Industry, and they have a membership breakfast during the holidays to unveil the Christmas trees that are on display there from around the world. My son and my daughter, they love looking at the lights and just looking at the trees, so that’s become another tradition.

Having my son five years ago on Thanksgiving was definitely my favorite memory. I was looking forward to my mom’s Thanksgiving meal that afternoon, but my water broke at two in the morning, and I was like, “Mom, can you save me a plate?” So I ended up with Thanksgiving two days later when I got home, but I got my Thanksgiving meal. So, you know, Thanksgiving will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s the day my son was born, and it’s the best turkey I ever cooked!

Stephanie Breaux
From South Shore

I think definitely in our part of the world and being spiritually oriented, the whole focus is on giving to see what we can do…I think this is the season to really recognize the need of the community. We have the House of Hope, the house of Sister Therese down here, which is used as a center for women with drug addiction, and we can really help them. We also like to get involved in terms of doing some performances for them. It’s all about giving, not about receiving. The tradition is family, community orientation, and looking around and seeing what we can do for others.

Primarily being from Swedish descent, we celebrate with lutefisk and glogg. Glogg is an alcoholic drink, fermented and quite strong, and lutefisk is fish, pickled fish, and it’s like oh my goodness. So we celebrate with that, and we also celebrate with prayer. We always celebrate around four or five o’clock, and then we have our mass, and when we come back, we sit around the tree and talk. And then we want to get our presents open before dawn; we beat everybody to the punch. And then that day too, we usually bring baskets for the poor, and we give them nice things….So yeah, it’s all about giving, and I think the more people give and find that heart in them to do it, the better the world will be. It’s not about getting; don’t spoil your kids.

In South Shore we do caroling in the neighborhood. We get together; everybody’s invited, and we march around. We have community gardens in the South Shore area, and we invite the community and we sing carols and it’s wonderful, truly. And especially today, we need to do more singing; it’s helpful to the soul. We do “Silent Night,” and “O Christmas Tree,” and” [The First] Noel,” we do that. We do anything and then sometimes somebody will want to come up and add something else.

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Ways to Give Back

Clothing Drive

VFW Post, 2129 W. Cermak Rd. Saturday, December 5, 10am–5pm. Bring gently used winter clothing. ddlrscholarship.org

Find your gently used winter clothing a new home. The Dennis De La Rosa Scholarship Fund is hosting its first clothing drive. Everything collected will be donated to La Casa Norte, a shelter in Humboldt Park. (Kristin Lin)

Alfreda Wells Duster Civic Club Annual Holiday Party

St. John Evangelist M.B. Church, 1234 W. 63rd St. Saturday, December 5, 3pm–7pm. For more information, contact Laura Rice at (917) 941-5865 or laura.wicg@gmail.com

Named after the daughter of civil rights activist and journalist Ida B. Wells (also nicknamed the “Mother of Clubs”), the Alfreda Wells Duster Civic Club will be holding its annual holiday party to raise money for the Club’s scholarship fund. The party will feature the famous Duster Club Cake Walk, “back by popular demand”; contrary to what the name suggests, it promises to be highly competitive. (Christian Belanger)

Liberation Lib Holiday Fundraiser

Emporium Arcade Bar, 2363 N. Milwaukee Ave. Wednesday, December 9, 7pm–10 pm. $10 suggested donation or $20 drink/token packages. liberationlib.com

Working to provide books to youth in Illinois prisons, this organization hopes to change the criminal justice system from the inside out. Help support their mission by taking part in this night of appetizers, drinks, games, and old-fashioned fun. (Sara Cohen)

Annual Christmas Feast for the Homeless and Elderly

St. Sabina Academy, Bethune Hall, 7801 S. Throop St. Friday, December 25, noon–2pm.

Led by South Side activist and pastor Michael L. Pfleger, the faith community of St. Sabina plans to distribute hundreds of meals to homeless and elderly residents. In the past, they’ve doled out more than 800 turkeys. This year, they’re seeking donations from time to toiletries to turkey. (Christine Schmidt)

Toy Sorting, Food Distribution, and Bell Ringing

Adele and Robert Stern Red Shield Center, 845 W. 69th St. (773) 358-3252. centralusa.salvationarmy.org

The Salvation Army’s Englewood location is looking for Angel Tree toy sorters, holiday food box distributors, and red kettle bell ringers this holiday season. Find volunteer opportunities at other Chicagoland Salvation Army locations online. (Kristin Lin)

Greater Chicago Food Depository

Greater Chicago Food Depository, 4100 W. Ann Lurie Pl. (773) 247-3663. chicagosfoodbank.org

Unload, restock, sort, repeat: Greater Chicago Food Depository offers volunteer opportunities at their member soup kitchens and shelters across Chicago. South Side locations include Chatham-Avalon Ministries, Word of Truth, and Canaan MBC Pantry. (Kristin Lin)

Children’s Home + Aid Holiday Gift Drive

Children’s Home + Aid, 125 S. Wacker Dr. (312) 424-0200. childrenshomeandaid.org

This holiday season, Children’s Home + Aid is a wish-granting factory. The organization manages a gift drive where donors contribute gifts from wish lists created by children in programs run by Children’s Home + Aid. Sign up online to get matched with a child. (Kristin Lin)

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Holiday Markets


Renegade Craft Fair

Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St. Saturday, December 5 through Sunday, December 6. 11am–6pm. renegadecraft.com

More than 250 Chicago-based vendors will be displaying and selling their handmade wares at the annual Holiday Renegade Craft Fair. Stop by for holiday shopping and DIY workshops, or just to pick up a free potted succulent! (Darren Wan)

Uprising Craft Handmade Holiday Market

Blue Island Beer Company, 13357 Old Western Ave. Sunday, December 6, noon–5pm. blueislandbeerco.com

“Not your momma’s craft fair!” Jointly organized by the Blue Island Beer Company and the Beverly Area Arts Alliance, this holiday market will feature handmade items from thirty different artists. More importantly, there will be a $1 hole-in-one mini golf challenge, so swing by. (Christian Belanger)

Vends + Vibes Art Market

Arts Incubator, 301 E. Garfield Blvd. Saturday, December 12, and Sunday, December 13, 1pm–5pm. (773) 702-9724. arts.uchicago.edu

At Vends + Vibes, artists and vendors from all over the South Side will share their crafts with the community. If that alone isn’t reason enough to attend, the market will also host children’s activities, a photo booth, an open bar, and live electroacoustic vibes from Mr. Jaytoo and DJ Jo de Presser. (Christopher Good)

PopUp Holiday Market

Pilsen Outpost, 1958 W. 21st St. Sunday, December 20, 12pm-7pm.

Art gallery Pilsen Outpost, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, will hold this popup holiday market just before Christmas featuring the work of seven different artists. Holiday lovebirds (turtledoves, for those wondering) rejoice: one jeweler, Mano y Metal, specializes in “Him & Her” accessories. (Christian Belanger)

Vends + Vibes Art Market

Arts Incubator, 301 E. Garfield Blvd. Saturday, December 12, and Sunday, December 13, 1pm–5pm. (773) 702-9724. arts.uchicago.edu

At Vends + Vibes, artists and vendors from all over the South Side will share their crafts with the community. If that alone isn’t reason enough to attend, the market will also host children’s activities, a photo booth, an open bar, and live electroacoustic vibes from Mr. Jaytoo and DJ Jo de Presser. (Christopher Good)

Christmas Bazaar

Sunshine Enterprises, 501 E. 61st St. Saturday, December 12, 10am-3pm. Free. (773) 904 9800

Looking for music, holiday treats, and perhaps an opportunity to snag some christmas gifts? Check out Sunshine Enterprises Second annual Christmas Bazaar, which will feature over twenty vendors and artisans, bringing together entrepreneurs and community members from across the city. To sweeten the deal, spending over $75 will earn you a $10 gift card to Greenline Coffee! (Bess Cohen)

Join the Conversation


  1. There are some great book stores that are actually on the South Side, 57th Street Books and Powells in Hyde Park for new and used respectively.

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