In Barrington Hills this Christmas Eve, you’d be able to find outside—rain or snow—Pastor Todd Berge at the barbeque grilling steaks for his family’s dinner. Pastor Berge comes from a family of six children and his wife, Jeanne, is one of four siblings; together they have continued the Christmas traditions started by their own families and created more as the years have gone by.
With four children of their own now, and one grandchild, the days leading up to the holiday are full of treasured traditions. Despite busy schedules all around, after Thanksgiving Jeanne finds a time for family to join in the Christmas tree decorating while singing Christmas carols. And just like many families, their ornaments are full of memories of holidays past. The Berge’s have a tradition of bringing home an ornament from each of their travels, “We have ornaments from Israel, Africa, Disney World— it’s a retelling of our marriage as we put them on the tree,” says Berge. Berge’s mother would always “put an orange in the tree of our stocking,” says Berge, a tradition that he and Jeanne continue.
On Christmas Eve the family join together to attend Church, celebrate the holiday over dinner, and open large presents, with Jeanne gifting pajamas to any family opting to stay overnight. At times, the family gathering can reach 50 people with everyone singing and playing games, like trivia, as a jovial, festive atmosphere pervades throughout the house.
On Christmas morning, Santa presents are opened over the smell wafting from the kitchen of Jeanne’s homemade cinnamon rolls—a recipe Pastor Berge’s mother passed down to her. “It was always a competition in my family growing up, who could eat the most cinnamon rolls,” says Berge. Throughout Christmas day, more family arrive at their home with the holiday culminating in a dinner that everyone contributes to. “We have a ham with a raisin sauce from my wife’s family, and another group is known for their mac n’ cheese,” says Berge— all traditions the grandkids are sure to continue just as Todd and Jeanne have done with their childhood traditions.
Although this year may look different than years past due to COVID-19, Berge says that “In the last nine months, a lot of what is good about family has been highlighted and also a lot of struggles and difficulties have arisen. This holiday season is a chance for us to pour into our homes, to invest in our families, and come back together. We have choice of highlighting our frustrations or the good in our families,” says Berge. At Pastor Berge’s Church, The Bridge Church in Algonquin, the theme of Advent this year is Advent Unplugged. Reflecting on the true spirit of the holiday, Advent Unplugged is a true testament “to Christ’s coming without fanfare and being born into the embrace of His family.” A message he shares coincides with the pandemic, “we don’t need to always go bigger and better,” sometimes just turning inward and embracing our families and traditions is “ where hope is” and is the best kind of gift.
For more information, visit thebridge-alg.org.