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Dekker: Christmas memories, and creating new ones

Doris Schartle (standing left right) Florence Rydzewski AnnMontalvo Alice Page Ginny Vitt (seated) shared their Christmas memories during conversatiTinley Park

Doris Schartle (standing left to right), Florence Rydzewski, Anna Montalvo and Alice Page and Ginny Vitt (seated) shared their Christmas memories during a conversation at the Tinley Park senior citizens center. | Julie Dekker ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 23, 2014 6:12AM



It takes more than frigid weather to keep Tinley Park residents from celebrating a holiday. The village’s Holiday Market brought out our bravest and most festive citizens on the weekend of Dec. 6-8, when temperatures were well below freezing.

I saw loads of families enjoying the festivities. Many of the people I talked to said they look forward to the market weekend every year. It was amazing to see a carousel all lit up and loaded with bundled-up kids, pink-cheeked and laughing outside on a winter night.

I marveled at the amount of people who turned out in the bone-chilling cold for the Parade of Lights on Oak Park Avenue. The street was lined with people having a great time. Kudos to everyone who was in the parade and to the chamber of commerce for putting it on.

The Parade of Lights and the village’s tree-lighting ceremony have become traditions for my husband and I. They have an old- fashioned feel that really gets you in the holiday spirit.

I recently stopped by the senior citizens center at the Tinley Park Park District and enjoyed a lively conversation with a group of ladies who were reminiscing about their childhood Christmases.

Doris Schartle recalled how on Christmas morning their stockings would be filled with oranges, nuts and fruits and how you would put out the biggest sock that you had.

Anna Montalvo added that they had to wash their socks the night before Christmas so they were clean for Santa. And in the Montalvo house, it was all about traditional food.

Montalvo told of how her mother would make both sweet and savory tamales and how they would have to scrub the corn husks clean by hand. It was Montalvo’s’s job to grind the almonds. To keep her from sneaking any while she worked, her mother told her that she had counted them all.

Ginny Vitt remembers her family making fresh Polish sausage and how the house smelled like it for days. She also has fond memories of the mushroom soup that her mother would make.

“Our family was very poor,” Vitt said, adding that Christmas “was never about the gifts. It was about church and food and family.”

All the women shared similar memories of wonderful meals, very few toys and going to midnight Mass.

“We couldn’t decorate the tree until the night before Christmas,” Alice Page said. “Then we would go to midnight Mass, come home, go to bed and wait for Santa.”

She said favorite treats were rosettes, kolacky and fruitcake.

In the Montalvo house, it was Mexican hot chocolate with a special square of chocolate whipped in a cup of hot milk. Sounds good to me!

I wonder about all the children I saw bundled up, running around the holiday market and the parade. What will their Christmas memories be? It seems that kids remember the darndest things — the taste or smell of something or a “cool” place they visited.

I believe that long after the excitement of the holiday dies down and the toys are cast aside, that it will be the smells and tastes and feelings that will stay with all of us.

It is my sincere wish to all of you that during this holiday time you cherish all of your memories and create plenty of new ones.



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