What Makes a Holiday Party Magical?



November 30, 2015



Janet and Rodger Owen with their 11-foot tree, which Rodger selects every year.

Janet and Rodger Owen with their 11-foot tree, which Rodger selects every year.

Known for the elegance of her suits and her deep interest in people, Janet Owen loves all things classic for the holidays. Although she has been involved over the years with various boards and committees, her great love is Bright Promises, which works with children who have experienced violence both at home and in the community. One of the most successful agents for high-end residences, the KoenigRubloff star has remained in the top one-half of 1 percent of sales in the Chicago area.

“Holiday parties for me are all about tradition. Every Christmas, 12 of us, plus the children’s table, dine on the china, crystal and silver I have used for years when we have special traditions. We go around the table and read the words of Christmas carols between courses. My favorite is ‘Silent Night,’ and it sounds like a prayer to me when read. Each guest is asked to tell about our most meaningful holiday memory, story or Christmas wish.

“You can’t have a party without dear friends and family around. And without them, the most beautiful décor and the most perfect tree would have no meaning.

“Of course, it goes without saying that ‘guests make a party.’ Inviting an interesting and interested group of congenial guests is definitely the key to a memorable time.”



Keene Addington, owner and designer of Tortoise Club, one of Chicago’s favorite restaurants, finds ways to accentuate the holidays with his wife, Megan, both at home and at the restaurant. Keene is lauded for working for many area projects including those of the Latin School of Chicago.

“Everyone loves holiday décor and how it beautifies the room, opens up the celebratory atmosphere, and how it makes the guests feel. I like to then try to personalize the décor toward my guests. For example, one year we hosted a holiday party and only put Christmas lights on the tree. When each guest arrived at the party, we then took a Polaroid photo of the guest and hung the picture on the tree. The tree decorations therefore were holiday lights and Polaroid pictures of our close friends and family.

“Beverages are a big part of the holiday party. I like to make my beverages ring of holiday spirit. One year, we put candy canes in martinis, another year, we had little Santa Clauses in tiki drinks instead of the usual umbrella. And red champagne flutes are always hugely festive.

Mark and Robin Tebbe with Tony Priolo, Chef of Piccolo Sogno

Mark and Robin Tebbe with Tony Priolo, Chef of Piccolo Sogno

The former president of the Women’s Board of the Museum of Contemporary Art and a dedicated volunteer for The Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute, Robin Tebbe’s impressive leadership skills are seen on the boards of the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago and the Latin School High Jump. She is chief marketing officer of Magellan Development Group. Her husband, Mark, is chair of ChicagoNEXT and is an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at the Polsky Center of the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

“As we approach the busy holiday season, large crowds are commonplace. I prefer to have intimate at-home dinners for eight to ten people — it creates a warm and welcoming evening.

“My husband loves to cook, so he will help prepare a meal or work with a chef to create a special menu with delicious food and wines.”

Recently, Chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno, cooked with Mark for a small dinner party at their home.

“We like to make sure that all our guests’ dietary restrictions are noted. I will never forget the night we had two gluten-free, one vegetarian, two no-shellfish and one dairy-free at our table. We were proud to accommodate everyone’s requests.

“I’m in charge of the evening’s décor. I like to arrange single color seasonal flowers that I buy at Mariano’s and place them in vessels that we have collected throughout our travels. It brings back wonderful memories and is a great conversation starter. I alternate dish patterns, light lots of candles, and sprinkle in metallic and crystal holiday ornaments for a pop of sparkle.

“Our favorite parties consist of a salon-style format. A good host has to guide the conversation into interesting areas without creating too much controversy. We recently had a dinner with eight incredibly accomplished people. Our spirited conversation bordered on debate and lasted for hours. No one wanted to leave the table. It really got the creative juices going.”

Oscar Tatosian with Monica Pedersen, HGTV Design Host

Oscar Tatosian with Monica Pedersen, HGTV Design Host

Oscar Tatosian and his brother Sarkis are celebrating the 95th birthday this year of Oscar Isberian Rugs, a beloved Chicago business established by his maternal grandfather. Oscar frequently travels to faraway places in search of fine textiles and soon is off again to Afghanistan. Oscar is president of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Guild Board of Directors and is active in the Armenian Church, currently serving on the board of the Armenian Church of America.

“When I entertain in my 1892 house on Prairie Avenue, I have plenty of food and drink and music in the background. I feel that holiday decorations set the tone. A beautiful tree with greenery on the mantle, lots of wreaths and candles are all part of the tradition. Even my dog Lexis is dressed in a bow and bells.”