Evanston residents and businesses adjust winter holiday plans

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

The Christmas tree in Downtown Evanston in 2019. Evanston residents and businesses are reimagining holiday celebrations this year as beloved traditions move virtual.

Rosalie Liu, Reporter

As Thanksgiving and winter holidays approach, Evanston residents and businesses are preparing alternatives to their regular in-person celebrations.

As COVID-19 cases spike in the Evanston area, many community members plan to prioritize health and safety by meeting with loved ones online.

Sonny Sultani, the chief digital officer of Evanston-based digital marketing agency 120/80 , said last year his office held a Thanksgiving lunch party. There, he said workers celebrated good food and enjoyed each other’s company. While he’s nostalgic about that lunch party, his office has been working remotely since the start of the pandemic, and social events stayed online too.

But Sultani sees a silver lining — he said the shift to virtual work and celebration has meant employees can spend more time with their families.

“Holidays really give us a chance to be grateful for the good things we have done,” Sultani said. “I believe that virtual meetings could bring people together and exchange our gratefulness.”

Artem Pop Up Gallery, an Evanston-based, family-owned small business that creates and displays handmade artwork, has also suspended some of its holiday rituals. Normally, the business hosts an annual holiday get-together at the gallery, inviting all of its artists and contributors.

One of Artem’s owners, Riya Kamat, said this year-end celebration connected all of the gallery’s artists. Traditionally, they would create and bring holiday-themed artwork for the event.

“This year, we obviously won’t be having a get-together of any sort,” Kamat said. “Artists are encouraged to bring in new things for the holidays. We will also set up a Christmas tree with artistic decorations.”

Evanston resident Kaitlyn Venturina’s holiday festivities also look different this year. Typically, her family would celebrate winter holidays by visiting relatives for a potluck dinner, both on Thanksgiving and on Christmas Eve. Every year, she said her cousins would hold a Secret Santa while her aunts and uncles would coordinate a huge gift exchange for the children.

This year, however, Venturina’s family is staying home to celebrate in their individual households. She’s disappointed, she said, but she doesn’t want to risk gathering physically with her entire family.

“We’re all devastated that we can’t meet with our family the way we used to,” Venturina said. “Things are gonna be different in so many ways. We’re unable to do traditions that we usually do. But for the most part, we should stay safe and avoid huge groups so that this could be over as soon as possible.”

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