Holiday traditions with a 2020 twist By Julia Putman

2020 has left people with nothing but surprises, changes and a hefty amount of let downs. From missed opportunities to significant tragedies, it can be hard to look on the bright side of what the year has left to offer. Luckily, as this year comes to an end, there are many holidays to look forward too, even with COVID-19 restrictions. The next two months will be filled with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years Eve celebrations with a few modifications. Whichever holidays you celebrate, there will still be plenty of COVID-friendly holiday traditions to participate in.


With Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away and Naperville restaurants still unable to seat completely indoors, here are a couple of suggestions on how to stay safe while celebrating the holidays.

Restaurants and stores like Whole Foods are offering a Thanksgiving dinner menu that includes turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, and even pumpkin pie -- everything you need for a small Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

For a more non-traditional meal, and a family favorite of mine, I personally recommend the incredible “Sleep Burger” from a Chicago restaurant, Kuma’s Corner. The Sleep Burger, which is only offered throughout the month of November, is a turkey burger that has a stuffing patty, cranberry sauce, turkey gravy and fried sage, all on an enormous pretzel bun. This might sound a bit crazy, but take it from a non burger lover: the Sleep Burger will change your life. Like many other restaurants, Kuma’s Corner offers to-go ordering (the Sleep Burger would be under BOTM, which stands for burger of the month) as well as outdoor seating. The Kuma’s Corner location in the West Loop of Chicago in Fulton Market now has outdoor plastic dining bubbles, an alternative safe and cool dining experience for the winter.


The December holidays come with some annual staple events, including holiday light shows and large family gatherings, but, understandably, many of these will not be able to take place this year. Luckily, some events will still be held under new, but still exciting, procedures.

A popular December event in Naperville is the Illuminations Light Festival at The Morton Arboretum. Normally, this event consists of a one mile light walk through the light-adorned trees, but in order to ensure the safety of guests this year, the show will be a drive-thru light festival. Tari Marshall, head of The Morton Arboretum’s Public relations and social media, explains a couple exciting events taking place at the Arboretum in the next two months.

“Our biggest event of the season is [the] Illumination Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum, this exhibition begins Nov. 20 and runs through Jan. 3. This year we have expanded it to a two mile driving trail and that allowed us to add six new lighting features …. one other new event that we have added is a new 5k run-walk on Saturday Dec. 12,” Marshall said.

You can find tickets for both the Light festival and the 5k run at https://www.mortonarb.org/

MERry music

If you don’t want to participate in any large events, just stay home! There is a perfect holiday playlist for you (it really is never too early) to enjoy curled up near the fire with a mug of your favorite hot cocoa. Apple Music and Spotify have hand picked the most popular holiday songs, such as Mariah Carey's famous All I Want for Christmas is You, Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas and even Mistletoe by Justin Bieber. Whether you will be baking, decorating your house, or just jamming out, these songs will get you right into the holiday spirit!

Bake, bake, bake

Another classic and easy at home tradition is making holiday cookies and treats, and luckily, there are an abundance of delicious recipes to partake in. You can make some exciting memories by hosting a cookie competition with a few friends or family members or even just bake for fun. Here are a few of my all time favorite recipes:

Ingredients needed: all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, butter, sugar, light brown sugar, 1 egg, milk, vanilla extract, non-stick spray, and Hershey’s Kisses.

Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 5 dozen cookies

Cookie Ingredients: salted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, eggs, all purpose flour, baking powder, salt

Icing Ingredients: powdered sugar, milk, light corn syrup, vanilla extract, gel food coloring.

Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes

Yield: 32 4 inch cookies

Ingredients needed: Rice Chex cereal, milk chocolate chips, peanut butter, butter, vanilla extract, peppermint extract, Christmas sprinkles, powdered sugar.

Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 9 cups

for movie lovers

What would make the December holidays without a movie marathon? Whether they’re holiday-themed films or classic favorites, here is a list of popular movies to watch this winter. Grab your popcorn, blanket, and cozy up to:

Genre and Rating(s): fantasy, adventure, comedy, drama, PG/G

Length: each movie is about 1 hour and 45 minutes long

Genre and Rating: comedy, drama, fantasy, PG

Length: 1 hour and 50 minutes

Genre and Rating: comedy, slapstick, PG-13

Length: 1 hour and 37 minutes

Genre and Rating: comedy, romance, fantasy, PG

Length: 1 hour and 37 minutes

  • The Harry Potter Series (7) (available for free on Xfinity or to rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube)

Genre and Rating(s): fantasy, action, adventure, mystery, drama, romance, thriller, PG, PG-13

Length: each movie is about 2 hours and 40 minutes

  • Lord of the Rings (4) / The Hobbit (3) (available to rent on Amazon Prime, YouTube, or to buy on Xfinity)

Genre and Rating(s): action, adventure, fantasy, epic, PG-13

Length: each Lord of the Rings movie is about 4 hours / each Hobbit movie is about 2 hours and 45 minutes

As COVID-19 continues to leave its mark on the midwest, participating in these safe activities will help you find the jolly side of this difficult year. As these exciting holidays come, remember to stay safe and have fun!


Created with images by Bob Canning - "Christmas morning winter wonderland in Island Park Idaho." • anncapictures - "popcorn snack cinema" • Bokskapet - "video production video movie"