Whew, this year has been challenging! At Assisting Hands, we are doing our best to fill our hearts with extra festive spirit as we continue to find new ways to thrive in a world very different from last year.
Even though this year our celebrations may be different, at Assisting Hands we believe that we can still enjoy our old traditions for the season. In fact, we may appreciate them even more! In light of our new world, we can find joy in memories and traditions, as much as we can find joy in looking ahead to the future. To get you started, here are some fun holiday activity ideas and traditions from us here in the Assisting Hands office!
Holiday Lights in the Chicago Suburbs
One of my favorite traditions is looking at holiday lights! While we may not be able to do special downtown trolley tours or travel to see the lights at Disney World this year, we can still easily and safely enjoy holiday lights in our own backyard this season. Here are some fun spots to view lights from the safety of your car…or if you want to get out for a little walk, be sure to bring some hot cocoa to keep you warm!
- North School Park Display in Arlington Heights
N Evergreen Ave and E Eastman St, Arlington Heights, 60004In Arlington Heights, be sure to check out this grand walk-through display. And for a bonus, you can check out the Christmas tree in Downtown Arlington Heights at Harmony Park on Vail Ave and Campbell St!
- Rosemont Lights Display
W Higgins Rd and Scott St, Rosemont, 60018You can park and walk around this gorgeous display, complete with a little petting zoo, and even Santa’s cottage where you can sneak a peek inside! If you are driving around Rosemont, you can also look for lights at Westin Park, Rosemont Theatre, the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Village Hall, Burgermeister Park, and Dunne Park.
- Home Display in Rolling Meadows
4504-4507 Magnolia Dr., Rolling Meadows, IL 60008Lights on Magnolia is a 30 minute light display synchronized with music on 5 houses on Magnolia Dr. in Rolling Meadows. They are accepting Venmo donations that go to the All Saints Food Pantry and also non-perishable food donations. You can find more information on their website: Light on Magnolia
- Lights Around Wheeling You can check out Flag Park, Friendship Park, Lehmann Fountain, and lights sprinkled around other locations as well, such as the Wheeling Police Station.
- Home Displays in Des Plaines
Drive around Westfield Gardens in Des Plaines between Mt Prospect Rd, Wolf Rd, and Dempster Street to see some fully decorated homes.
- If you are interested in drive-through light displays with admission prices, you can check these out:Winter Light Show at Goebbert’s Farm
Illumination at the Morton Arboretum
We all know that the holidays are made for cooking, baking and making treats and sweets. Especially now that we are mostly stuck at home, what better time than now to get creative in the kitchen. I asked around the office for some family recipes and here’s some ideas I came up with to share with you!
Coquito is a coconut eggnog-like drink from Puerto Rico and it is oh, so delicious. Here is a recipe from one of our lovely office staff. You make coquito by mixing and chilling the following ingredients:
- One can of evaporated milk
- One can of sweetened condensed milk
- One can of coconut milk
- One can of cream of coconut
- One spoon of vanilla
- One cup of rum
- Garnish with cinnamon sticks
You can add a raw egg if you are feeling adventurous! You can certainly also make it without the rum…and you could add other fun things like Nutella or ice cream!
2. German Christmas Cookies
One of our fabulous office ladies makes German cookies every year and gives them lovely designs by pressing them into a traditional Springerle board. Here is her sugar cookie recipe that is about 100 years old!
Mix eggs, flour, sugar, and baking powder to make your dough. Chill the dough and then roll it out. Press the springerle board onto the dough and then cut out each cookie. If we are following the original recipe, you then leave the cookie dough overnight in a cold room! When you are ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet and sprinkle it with anise seed. Bake the cookies on the sheet for about 12 to 15 minutes.
Vasilopita is a Greek New Year’s Cake that our fearless leader Daniellah told us about. Traditionally a coin is hidden inside the cake and at midnight on New Year’s Eve a piece is cut for everyone and whoever finds the coin in their slice will have good luck for the rest of the year!
Here is a recipe for Vasilopita.
Similar to our Greek Vasilopita, our amazing office teammate from Albania told us about Byrek, a delicious savory coiled pie made with spinach, green onions, and homemade phyllo dough. You can also put coins in the Byrek for a similar tradition with a prize or a gift for the lucky winner who finds the coin!
Here is a recipe for Spinach Byrek.
Also from Albania, another savory dish recommendation, almost like a cross between meatballs and meatloaf, another delicious meal to make for the holidays.
You blend spinach, potatoes, parsley, dill, onions, and garlic in a food processor and mix with egg, ground beef and bread crumbs to make meatballs, which you then flatten and bake in the oven.
Holiday Movie Recommendations
Between the cold weather and Covid, what better way to celebrate this holiday than by cozying up in your own warm home and re-visiting some old holiday favorites. If you need some ideas, here are our favorites from the office staff to make your holiday a little more cozy and a little more bright.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
- Home Alone (1990)
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
- A Christmas Story (1983)
- Elf (2003)
- George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (1993)
We hope you enjoy some of our holiday traditions, I’m sure you have some of your own to add. Most of all we hope you enjoy your next two holiday weeks, no matter how you choose to celebrate!
From our office to your home, we wish everyone a very Happy Holiday!