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September 2014


Local leaders share holiday traditions

Everyone has holiday traditions or a memorable Christmas that sticks out.

Whether it was receiving the present that you were hoping for all year or simply spending it with family or a significant other, the holidays can be a special time.

Lake Country Publications asked some local school officials and business leaders in the community a few questions on their Christmas experiences over the years.

Glenn Schilling, superintendent of the Hartland-Lakeside School District:

Favorite holiday tradition growing up and why?

One of my favorite holiday traditions was making a Speidini for Christmas Eve and also making Italian Christmas cookies.

Favorite holiday tradition you have now and why?

Our family enjoys going to a tree farm, getting a real (Griswold) Christmas tree and spending the evening putting it up and decorating it. We begin with a chili lunch and then head to our favorite tree farm in Sussex.

Any recent or past memorable holiday moments/gifts that stick out?

One of my most memorable moments was spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in London, England.

Anything else relating to the holidays that you enjoy doing or specifically like about the area?

A holiday tradition I enjoy doing with my daughter, whose birthday is a few weeks before Christmas, is going to the stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving, shopping and having lunch together.

Ingrid Herzog, proprietor of Minuteman Press:

Favorite holiday tradition growing up and why?

My early childhood years were spent in Hungary. The Christmas tradition there is such that the tree is not decorated until Christmas Eve. The younger children are tended to by relatives while the parents and older siblings decorate the tree and place the presents underneath. When ready, the entire family sits down for the Christmas dinner. Not until a bell is heard heralding to the little ones that Santa has arrived, do the little eyes get to behold the beautiful tree and presents. Imagine for a child to walk into a previously ordinary room, now filled with incredible lights, ornaments and presents. I can still recall the awe I felt as a child; it was truly magical.

Favorite holiday tradition you have now and why?

We are very proud of our "It's all about the Children" campaign. We ask our customers to bring in toys for the Christmas Clearing Council's one day Toy Shop, and in return they receive a 10 percent discount on their order. Additionally, we have also volunteered in the past years to set up the toyshop with all of our employees. Not only does this benefit the children, but it puts all of us at MMP Waukesha in the holiday spirit. We feel blessed to have the opportunity to own our own business and giving back is very important to us, especially when it helps children.

Yvette Bjorklund, Fred Astaire Dance Studio, Pewaukee:

Favorite holiday tradition you have now and why?

Now that I am older, my Fred Astaire work family traditions have replaced my family traditions long gone. The owners are the nanas or moms and dads of the family who set up fabulous Christmas parties. They too proudly hand out gifts to their staff, which are required to sit front and center donning the Santa hat. Just before they open the gift, the owner acknowledges that individuals accomplishments and exclaims how grateful they are for their services. Then it is off to the Fred Astaire Studios Christmas Trophy Ball, which is an over the top Santa's Workshop/Candy Cane Lane theme at the Hyatt Downtown. This event is where all our professional dance staff put on their Christmas skits to entertain our students while the formal affairs dinner is served. This event kicks off the season for all who participate much like the many Milwaukeeans tradition of attending the Nutcracker Ballet, or driving down Candy Cane Lane each year.

Oconomowoc resident Abby Lorenz, president of Women's Club of Pewaukee, Pewaukee Lake Area Ski Club and Pewaukee Area Arts Council and a performer with the Waukesha Civic Broadway Singers:

Favorite holiday tradition growing up and why?

My favorite holiday tradition was traveling to the grandparent's homes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to celebrate with family. I loved hearing stories from grandparents about their lives growing up and how different life was for them without TV, cell phones or computers.

Favorite holiday tradition you have now and why?

We continued the tradition of traveling to grandparent's homes with our children so they could pass along the wonderful morals and values instilled in us. With me being a musician I have a tradition of bringing people together to sing at nursing homes during the holidays. Music brings such joy to those around us. I love seeing smiles on the faces of the elderly, knowing it is bringing back fond memories of days gone by. Music is the gift God has given me, and I feel the need to share my music with those around me.

Any recent or past memorable holiday moments/gifts that stick out?

Just recently I received a letter from a resident at Three Pillars (senior living communities) who shared with me the story of his losing his wife earlier this year, and how grateful he is for his "extended family" at his retirement community. The group I direct is called the Civic Broadway Singers, and he told me how much he was looking forward to having us perform for him in the coming days, because our music is a "memorable and unforgettable musical treasure" for all the residents at Three Pillars.

Anything else relating to the holidays that you enjoy doing or specifically like about the area?

When the kids were younger I remember filling the car with family and friends to tour the Country Christmas display, our state's largest outdoor drive-through light display. I particularly love the nativity scene and train layout, which is my father's hobby. We are blessed to have this beautiful holiday tradition in our own back yard.

Melissa Thompson, Swallow School District superintendent in Hartland:

Favorite holiday tradition growing up and why?

Christmas caroling on Christmas Eve with my grandparents and all of my dad's childhood friends who returned for the holidays. We collected money for UNICEF and it felt so good to do something special for others around the world. Then, we would have appetizers at a neighbor's house before Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents' house followed by relaxing around a roaring fire.

My grandparents are no longer alive and most of the folks who used to do this and/or coordinate it - my dad's generation - are now in their 70s and 80s. Sadly, this tradition has stopped.

Favorite holiday tradition you have now and why?

I love going to church with my four children on Christmas Eve, having a dinner of stuffed shells (same as when I grew up and now I make them), putting out some reindeer food, helping them to place cookies by the fireplace and tucking them into bed to wait for that ever-exciting Christmas morning.

Any recent or past memorable holiday moments/gifts that stick out?

With our children we place clues in the Advent calendar rather than treats because we discovered that someone (probably the then-2 year old) had been taking the treats in advance of the day. Last year for Christmas Day we put together a final elaborate series of about 12 clues all over the house that included boy and girl gingerbread cookies which the kids amassed in a basket along with the clues. The final clue was found in a frame in my hands - an ultrasound picture of our now-latest addition, Owen who was born in June. They had to read the clue about three times to let it sink in and kept staring at the picture in wonder. It was truly a wonderful moment for our whole family.

The kids were wondering how the calendar would culminate this year and we have assured them, there will not be another baby announcement.

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