For many families, piling the kids in the car and taking a road trip to look at holiday decorations is a yearly tradition. Now a local author has written a book that highlights the best of the best in holiday displays in six Chicago-area counties, as well as in Wisconsin and Indiana.
The Best Christmas Decorations in Chicagoland by Mary Edsey features information on hundreds of light displays, from the Magnificent Mile to the Elgin home of Mike Arnold. The most interesting features in the book, in addition to all the fabulous photos, are the interviews with each of the holiday decorators. For instance, as Arnold was recovering from a serious car accident, he watched as 50 friends, relatives and neighbors assembled on his front lawn to put up the holiday display as he had done for the last 24 years. When the lights were flipped on, the crowd cheered and Mike cried.
You can’t beat this book for inspiring, heart-warming holiday stories. "Every person I talked to had a unique tale to tell and (the book) ended up being like a portrait of American families in this century and their holiday traditions," Edsey says. "All these people go the extra mile just to make others happy."
If you’re new to the holiday light tour tradition, Edsey recommends you begin by looking through the book at the chapter located nearest your home. Use the map to plan out your route, and bring the book along so you can share the great stories about the homeowners at each stop. When you’re ready for more, check out some of the spectacular displays farther from home and plan a new trip. "Flip through, look at the pictures. There’s a wonderful exhibit in Zion that’s well worth the drive. You can find what interests you and map out something to see."
One stop not on the list, however, is Edsey’s home. "I’m lucky if I can get a tree up," she admits with a laugh.
The Best Christmas Decorations in Chicagoland is available for $24.99 at local bookstores, as well as through Voyageur Press, voyageurpress.com.