Local Business Owners Share 'What Christmas Means'

From favorite songs to special moments, downtown business owners share their holiday memories.

What does Christmas mean to you?

In my travels as Around Town writer, I asked 11 downtown business owners and employees this same question. Although many prefaced their answers with, “I’m sure everyone says this,” each answer was actually unique.

Meeting these people who make our town great is one of the favorite parts of my job. Hearing their Christmas memories was a joy — one that I’m happy to share with you this day before Christmas Eve.

Favorite Holiday Memory

"When I was probably 12 or 13, we went to Austria to ski for Christmas," said Andre Pidun of . "There was about 6 feet of snow, Santa came on his sleigh, and there was a gift for each child. It was a real Christmas."

"In 1976, we didn't have any money," explained Christine Nugent of . "My son was 4, and I didn't know what kind of Christmas I could give him. But every gift he opened, he would exclaim, 'Thank you, Mom! It's just what I always wanted!' His joy was everything."

Favorite Thing About the Holiday

"Food and family," said Renee Perkins of . "It's OK to just sit around and do nothing with your family, to just be together. And eat unlimited amounts and not feel too bad!"

"Family — there are people I only see at Christmas, so it's great to see the children growing and the new additions," said Dena Gillespie of .

"Can't you tell?" Christine Laikind of asked as she gestured around the store. "It's decorating! I really get my creative spirit out this time of year."

"It's just a happy time of year," said Geoff Lytle of . "Everyone is real friendly. It's a fun time with family."

"Besides being with family, I love holiday baking and decorating. I think it makes it magical and really gets you into the spirit," said Tracey Ladd of .

Favorite Holiday Gift

“My husband got a Mediterranean cruise for me and my mom," Perkins said. "My mom had never been to Europe, and it was such a cool gift that he was thinking of us."

"Anything from my daughter," Laikind said.

"When I was about 9 or 10, I got a really cool microscope set," Lytle said. "I still have it. It's part of my boys' collection now."

"This year, our family adopted a family in need, and that has been the most wonderful experience," Ladd said. "That trumps everything."

"Oh, that's easy! My youngest son was born two hours after Christmas," said Kerry Vizena of . "He was born at , and they wrapped him in a stocking!"

Favorite Holiday Movie

Tony Bonheim of Cose di Lusso offered up Die Hard. "Nobody gets it, but it's my favorite."

"I like the old stop-motion animated specials, and my favorite is A Year Without a Santa Claus," Perkins said. "That's the one we have to watch every year and sing along with Heat Miser and Cold Miser."

Without hesitation, Amy Fonville and Pam Valko of Talulah Belle answered, "Elf"!

"A Christmas Story — Ralphie always makes me laugh and, just like Ralphie, I really wanted a Red Ryder, too!" Lytle said.

Favorite Holiday Song

"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree — it's upbeat with a lot of great energy," Gillespie said. "My mom used to play the record all the time, so the song reminds me of being a kid."

"It has to be Little Drummer Boy for me," Valko said. "It's my mom's favorite holiday song, too, so it makes me think of her."

Fonville went with a less traditional choice: "Imagine by John Lennon. Technically, it's not a Christmas song, but to me, it's what Christmas is really all about."

"Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella — I just love that song, it gives me goose bumps every time I hear it, " Ladd said. "I was a stage manager for a Madrigal Dinner for four years, and I love that style of music, like The Wassail Song and Boar's Head Carol." 

"Little Drummer Boy chokes me up every time," Nugent said. "I grew up very poor. His talent was his gift, and that is very emotional for me."

"It has to be Jingle Bells," Vizena said. "My middle son, who is now 27, sang that for his preschool Christmas program, and even now when I hear it, I picture him in his green velvet outfit, shaking those bells with all his might. To me, that song is the total joy of Christmas."

Favorite Holiday Treat

"Buckeyes!" Gillespie said. "My aunt used to make them every Christmas, and I'd sneak them. Now I'm in charge of making them."

"Dutch apple pie ... I make a good one!" Laikind said.

"Anything with cream cheese!" Fonville exclaimed.

"Christmas cookies in general," Valko said. "I'm not picky!"

"My mom made French meat pies with homemade crust," Nugent said. "She would use the leftover dough to make cookies with butter, cinnamon and sugar. I still make those cookies with my kids. In fact, my son did a show-and-tell in elementary school on how to make them. He just thought they were the neatest things."

"I have two: my Grandma Marvel's shortbread cookies and eggnog. My dad and I always made fresh eggnog together," Vizena explained.


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