« Is closed circuit TV the answer to crime in Duluth? | Main | Changing times call for the elimination of ‘change’ with parking meters »

Holiday traditions different this year in the East Hillside and beyond

BY KRISTEN KREBS
DCN Correspondent

Rather than being nestled in bed with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, some
holiday participants are seeing visions of the country’s subprime mortgage crisis,
unemployment, dwindling 401k’s and health insurance woes. The country’s current economic
status has some people reluctant for this year’s holiday season.

Recent Gallup polls show that Americans' projected average Christmas spending this year
is the lowest in Gallup’s 10-year history. Spending is projected at $616; down from last
year’s projected spending at this time of the year, which was $866.

How will holiday participants notice the economy’s impact on holiday traditions in their
own neighborhoods?

At the organizational level, The Union Gospel Mission is struggling to gather food
donations for Thanksgiving food baskets that they distribute to those in need in the
Duluth and surrounding community. The Union Gospel Mission is an organization located in
the East Hillside providing food shelter, and hope to impoverished individuals in the
Duluth and surrounding area. Brian Holmes, one of the mission’s coordinators, has an
inkling that the lack of donations is “all due to the way the economy is going this year.?
As of the afternoon of Friday, November 21, the organization still needed 128 turkeys to
be donated in order to have enough for each family who signed up.

“Money is tight with people,? Holmes said. “We’d normally have two freezers full of
turkeys at this point.?

Holmes is unaware at this point, of what the Gospel mission will do if the turkeys are
not donated in time.

As for the residents in Duluth’s East Hillside, “I’ll put up less lights, much less,?
Theresa Verkis said.

Theresea Verkis has lived with her sister, Carolyn, in the East Hillside, for more than 40
years. The single sisters imagine that their electricity bill will be between $160 and
$170 during this year’s holiday season, an expense that they are worried about paying.

In an effort to alleviate some of this year’s unique holiday stress, Order of St. Nick, a
national greeting card publisher, has released a line of “financial crisis Christmas
cards?

The line of cards feature verses such as "Have a Great Depression and a Subprime New
Year."

And how will the Verkis sisters make it through the holiday season this year?

“Christmas ain’t Christmas if I don’t have garland over every doorway,? Theresa said.
“Christmas is the one time of year you’re allowed to be gaudy.?

The combination of old and new gifted decorations helps to ease the cost of Christmas
décor and adds to Theresa’s “gaudy? theme.

Additionally, rather than exchanging presents, the Verkis family makes ornaments to
exchange.

Each child in their family got an ornament for Christmas up until they were eighteen
years old. In the days that the Verkis sisters hosted Christmas at their home, in the
East Hillside, more than 100 family members would pack into the house to celebrate;
that’s a lot of hand-made ornaments.

Although the Verkis sisters won’t be hosting that many people for Christmas this year,
the ornaments for this year’s exchange spread across the floor of their dining room-angels made with gold beads and wire.

The size of this expense, compared to buying gifts, is something that Theresa appreciates
this year.