We had a cozy little Christmas at home in Chicago this year, and it raises the argument that hosting the holidays might be easier than traveling.
I guess I’ve reached that point in life where I don’t “go home” for Christmas because Chicago has become home and I am hosting Christmas. This year, we hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas. We even had a low key dinner party for New Years Eve.
Before Covid, we traveled to Maine for Thanksgiving and alternated between spending Christmas in Maine with my family or abroad with Charles’s family. Once Gwen was born, that seemed like a lot of travel – especially at the start of cold and flu season. Last year, most of Christmas week was spent in Maine, where everyone seemed to be battling a cold. It wasn’t ideal.
Staying home this year was just so easy! We still went to Maine for Christmas Prelude, a far more fun time to be in Kennebunkport since there are so many activities. But for Christmas, we stayed home – and my parents came to us. And I realized something: it’s more fun to be in Chicago and easier and more comfortable to host guests than to travel elsewhere. This might sound like a bold statement, but traveling with a toddler can be an adventure.
Another reason I like to host holidays? It kicks me into gear to get projects done around the house! We are gliding into 2024 with freshly touched-up walls, paintings that have finally been finished and hung, and a cleaned-out pantry.
We had time for some seasonal crafts, like making Santa handprint ornaments with Gwen. We even hosted an ornament painting party with some of Gwen’s toddler friends – it was very cute!
I painted a total of 16 ornaments this year. I painted 5 for our tree and several more to give as gifts to friends and teachers. I paint ornaments to represent special memories from that year – milestones like Halloween costumes, seeing the Eras tour, and our trip to London. I started the tradition three years ago, and it’s already so much fun to look back at past years.
Perhaps most importantly (and I am hoping I don’t jinx anything here), we were all healthy for the holidays. What a huge win after trying to power through Christmas while feeling terrible last year.
And how did we spend our Chicago Christmas?
Gwen saw her first live theater performance – Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Twas The Night Before, which combined the classic poem with acrobatic acts.
On Christmas Eve, a few close friends came over for dinner. I cooked a classic dinner of ham and mashed potatoes and it was so sweet watching my friends play with Gwen. Before bedtime, Santa’s elves payed us a visit and dropped of new pajamas, books, and a letter from Santa.
Gwen set out exactly one cookie for Santa and insisted that he wanted to drink water and not milk.
My parents arrived on Christmas Day. It was the first time that they have been to Chicago during the holiday season, so we took them to all of the classic seasonal events. We saw the Christmas Around the World exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry.
We went to the Christkindlmarket at Gallagher Way and Winterland at Wrigley Field, which were both incredible! Winterland is a newer event that coincides with Christkindlmarket that features kid-friendly carnival rides, food and drinks, and ice skating on Wrigley Field. Gwen had the time of her life!
We took Gwen on the Polar Express – which was exceptional. She was dancing in the aisles and speechless when she got to meet Santa!
And, we enjoyed food from top Chicago restaurants including Tortello and Trivoli Tavern.
Overall, we got to spend quality time as a family while genuinely enjoying the city we live in. We got to spend time with friends and relax in our own home. It was perfect.
I hope you had a lovely holiday and that your 2024 is off to a happy start!