For Oscar Martinez, Christmas means blending memories of Christmases past with Christmases present. The Lake County Sheriff, Martinez remembers all the relatives coming to his family’s house. “It was always exciting. We’d go out and chop down a Christmas tree, bring it home and decorate it while my mom and grandmother got the meal ready.”
The kids sang Christmas carols and everyone watched the 1946 film “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Christmas Eve everyone went to midnight Mass. Afterwards, “we kids got to open one gift right before we went to bed. Then Christmas Day bright and early we’d wake our parents up.” Later, the kids played and grownups chatted.
That tradition continued with Martinez’s kids even as they grew up: Alyssa is now 25; Amanda, 23; and Oscar III, 20. “We’re a tight-knit family,” says Martinez.
Martinez's mom, Maria, and dad, Oscar Sr., immigrated from Mexico in the 1950s, became American citizens, embraced volunteerism to begin the Christmas season, and passed that commitment to their children. Other traditions Martinez’s parents brought with them include a dessert everyone loves. His mom, who learned it from her mom, Maria Leocadia, passed it along to his wife, Melissa.
“It’s the best dessert ever. We make a big bowl of it and it’s always all gone.”
Fresh Red Apple Dessert
Red apples, peeled and chopped
Red sugar sprinkles
Peel and chop apples as needed. Mix in crushed pecans. Stir together sour cream and red sprinkles until the mix is the desired color and can coat the apples and pecans.