Happy Holidays from us at the Entrepreneur and Family Business Council! We asked EFBC Executive Director, Liz Fidanovski, and President, Mark Wesa, questions about their favorite holiday traditions and memories.
What is your favorite holiday tradition with family?
Liz: My favorite holiday tradition is celebrated on Christmas Eve. There’s about twenty of us that get together to do dinner and a white elephant gift exchange. We also play a bunch of different board games. The most entertaining part is watching our family figure out how to play the Heads Up game through the phone app. No one can ever figure out which way to turn the phone.
Mark: When I was a kid, we used to go to my older sister’s house for Christmas Eve. My sister is 24 years older than me (I was the family “surprise”). Anyhow, all of us kids would look out the window at night on Christmas Eve and look for “Rudolph’s Red Nose.” We lived in unincorporated Bensenville and could clearly see Rudolph… AKA the warning lights on a radio tower in Elmhurst. I was one of the lucky kids since our house was one of Santa’s first stops. When we returned home from my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, Santa had already delivered our gifts and we got to open them that night. The truth was that my mom worked for Sears in Oak Brook and always had to work Christmas Eve. She would stop home, set out all the gifts, and then head to my sister’s house. I’m not sure who loved Christmas more between my mom and me.
When my boys were young, we did the Clark Griswold Christmas. We had an elaborate “exterior illumination” system. We had a manger in the front yard with the whole nativity crew, including plastic Jesus. We would go to the tree farm, cut down a huge tree, and I could barely bring it in the house it was so heavy. I upgraded the tree stand with a plywood base to support the weight of the tree, but when I went to stand up the tree it hit the ceiling. So, I had to break out the Sawzall in the living room and trim the tree. I later had to re-paint the ceiling due to the dirt mark left on the ceiling. That same year, the boys woke up super excited that Santa had placed gifts under the tree and were ready to open presents right away. The only problem was that it was 2 am. I just finished assembling all their stuff, including the hot wheel car wash extravaganza with “some assembly required” that went on forever. Mom and Dad just went to sleep, exhausted. The kids proudly showed me the clock that read 6:30. The battery had died in the clock. They had no idea of the real time and they certainly didn’t care!
Does your Forum do anything special around this time of year?
Liz: This is only our second year together, so we are still working on building a tradition. The first year, I brought homemade cookie tins for everyone. This year, one of our members gave us these the fancy wine opener where you pump the cork out of the bottle. I had never seen these before and I poked myself on the needle so many times trying to figure it out!
What’s one of the most memorable gifts you’ve ever received?
Mark: When I was a kid, I got a Lionel train set. I loved my train and played with it for years. Santa would then bring upgrades every year. Eventually I had lots of tracks that I would set up in our living room, and multiple train cars and engines that I would crash into Lego buildings or other cool stuff.
Do you have a favorite dish that is only served on special occasions?
Liz: We have a family recipe that is similar to fried donuts and covered in sugar syrup. Very nutritious …and so delicious!
Mark: As I mentioned earlier, my mom loved Christmas and was the family Christmas baker. She made multiple cakes, pies, cookies and my all-time favorite… the “Delicious Dessert.” It’s a pudding-based dessert she made every year with graham cracker crust, cool whip layers and butterscotch pudding topped with crushed almonds. She got the recipe from the back of a Jell-O pudding box and made it for years. My niece Marge has now taken over the crucial responsibility of baking this awesome dessert. In writing this, I think I should ready my glass of milk because I’m starting to get hungry.
How does your company celebrate the holiday season?
Liz: It’s an exciting year for EFBC. Our staff and executive committee have almost doubled in size. Every year for the holidays, the staff and leadership team get together for a holiday lunch. We tried a Peruvian place this year! We also did a team building baking activity to make cookie tins for each member of the EFBC Executive Committee.
Mark: MKD has hosted a holiday party for 25 years. I really learned to enjoy the holiday parties from my days working at Cal’s Electric. The Caldrone family always had a nice party for the company and we all looked forward to the fun. At MKD, we have a tradition where we give out embroidered Carhart jackets to team members who have worked at MKD 5, 10, and now 20+ years and we have a big prize raffle. Over the years we’ve had all kinds of crazy activities: Adult tricycle races, musical chairs (which we had to stop because adults don’t always play nice… jumping over chairs and pushing to win), MKD trivia, indoor archery, crazy photo booths, slideshows with cool job site and past party pictures, and of course there is always a DJ and dancing. One of the most memorable activities was a musical chairs incident. As I mentioned, people got hyper-competitive for this game. This particular year, one of our ladies in HR tried jumping over the chairs, fell, and her dress flew over her head. It’s a legendary story to this day, but has put an end to the musical chairs tradition! The holiday party gets everyone together to laugh and have a good time. We now have the party in January due to our size of 350-400 people attending. I love it!
Mark is the President of MKD Electric and the
President of the EFBC for 2019-2020.
Learn more about Mark here.
Liz Fidanovski is the Executive Director of the
Entrepreneur and Family Business Council.
Learn more about Liz here.