Here at The Esquiline, our beautiful grounds are full of people enjoying the Christmas season. Our diverse community celebrates the season in a variety of special ways and if you ask, you’re sure to find that every resident has a wonderful holiday tradition to share.
Some of those residents have shared their stories below. Read on to enjoy tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago, as well as some fun new holiday traditions they’ve started at The Esquiline.
Here are some of our favorite holiday traditions at The Esquiline Community
The Kindness of Strangers
Robert H., who goes by Bob, has been living at The Esquiline for almost 18 years. When he thinks about Christmas, one memory in particular comes to mind.
“My buddy and I were in the Navy. We were in Norman, Oklahoma. On Christmas Eve, we decided we’d go to midnight mass in Oklahoma City. We didn’t have a car or anything like that, so when church got out, we were walking down the street to catch a bus,” he explained. “There was a young couple who stopped and asked us if we wanted to go with them—they had been to mass, too. We said ‘sure!’ So we went and had a good breakfast with them, and went on after that. I thought that was really nice of them.”
Bob is originally from a town in Champaign County, Illinois. It was a tiny town—his graduating class only had 15 students. It was his first Christmas away from home, in a new and unfamiliar city. He’s never forgotten the kindness and fellowship shown to him and his friend by that couple.
“I can remember that better than anything else,” he said. “It was really special.”
Amend was their last name—Bob still remembers that, too. He thought it was a neat coincidence that their last name had “Amen” in it.
Although that night stands out, Bob also fondly remembers other Christmases that came after that special day. He and his wife were married in 1954 and had five kids in the first eight years of their marriage—“there were a lot of diapers,” Bob joked. For Christmas, they would take their children to see his wife’s parents, who lived in a quaint Illinois town with Amish buggies rolling down the road. They would spend the day on a farm that bordered the river and was full of beautiful old trees, enjoying fun and family.
Now, at The Esquiline, Bob still enjoys spending the holidays with his family. This year he’ll be visiting with family for Christmas.
“I get together with my kids quite a bit. I’m quite lucky,” he said. “That’s my favorite part of the holidays: being with family. I’m real fortunate, the family gets along real well.”
Looking for holiday activities in Belleville to enjoy with your family?
Spending the Holidays with Family and New Friends
Rich and Lucy B. have been married for over 60 years. With seven children, 13 grandchildren, and one recently arrived great-grandchild, they have a wealth of Christmas traditions they’ve established over the years.
When their children were growing up, Lucy explained that she enjoyed having a big Christmas party for both sides of the family.
“We kind of shared holidays with his family and I asked for Christmas. So for 50 some years we always had Christmas dinner at our house,” she shared. “I’m from a very small family and we didn’t do much for Christmas, so I had always wanted to do something like that.”
Of course, it wasn’t just family, Rich explained. They also invited friends who didn’t have any family plans of their own—the more the merrier.
As a child, Rich didn’t have extravagant Christmases.
“My parents were in what I would call the poor class,” he explained. “We didn’t have much in the way of gifts. We usually got a garment to wear and our stocking had an orange, apple, banana—something good to eat. Not much candy, though, because we didn’t have a lot of extra to spend on holidays.”
Growing up, Christmases were sometimes difficult for Lucy’s family, as well. Her father died when she was just a baby and her mother, a native of Italy, had to learn English and a new culture at the same time.
“She had a rough life,” Lucy said. “She couldn’t speak the language, and after he died, it was rough. It was when we went to school that she really learned English. When she became a citizen, she was so happy.”
For Christmas, Lucy’s mother made a special type of Italian cookie, twisted into a bow or wreath.
“I still make them to this day,” Lucy said. “Some of my children love them, some of them don’t at all. It has that black licorice taste, which you either like or don’t like.”
Rich and Lucy have lived at The Esquiline for nearly five years.
“We’re very happy. We’ve made a lot of new friends,” Lucy commented.
They still enjoy their usual Christmas traditions, such as Christmas Eve mass with their family, but they’ve also added some fun new holiday traditions at The Esquiline. They play holiday games with their neighbors and decorate their apartment with their favorite pieces as the season progresses.
“We have a lounge right outside of our room. We put a tree there and other decorations and everybody helps out,” Lucy enthused. “We have a new lady this year that’s added a lot to it. She’s from New York and has added a lot of great stuff. She loves it.”
Of course, this year they also plan on spending time with their family.
“Now, with grandkids growing up and children moving away, we have a smaller group for the holidays. But fortunately, with the new technology, we can FaceTime to communicate back and forth,” Rich said. “We have a wonderful family. Everybody says ‘seven kids, that’s a lot.’ But I wouldn’t trade them.”
Holiday Traditions at The Esquiline
Vice President of Resident Operations Jennifer Murphy feels that the holiday season at The Esquiline is truly a special time.
“There’s just a nice vibe throughout this whole month,” she said. She went on to explain that there are plenty of things going on to put the community in a festive mood. For example, The Way of Lights takes place right on the grounds. “We’re really lucky that that’s included as a part of our tradition.”
There’s also a fun, yearly party for residents and their families. This year there was a twelve piece band and a huge dance floor for attendees to enjoy.
“It’s just a fun, fun party with special food,” Jennifer said. “There are all sorts of fun things going on.”
“How it works is, a tree is decorated with angels and the angels list items for a particular child and something that’s on their wishlist,” Jennifer explained. “Within a week, we had all the donations we needed. An office has been overrun with gifts. It’s been amazing.”
Live Your Life at The Esquiline
The Esquiline is an award-winning Life Plan Community that incorporates physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual wellness elements to help enhance your retirement lifestyle. If you’d like to learn more about what life is really like here, schedule a tour to share a day with us.