It is especially important to shop locally this holiday season. If consumers do not patronize small businesses, some may not survive a fourth quarter that ends with red ink. Evanston is fortunate to have home-grown companies that sell not only fresh trees but also the ornaments to decorate them – and, of course, gifts for under the tree.

Anton’s Greenhouse Evanston (1126 Pitner Ave.) sells Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, boughs and poinsettias for the holiday season. Visit for store hours and details.

West End Florist & Garden Center (3800 Old Glenview Road) is in Evanston’s far northwest corner and carries Christmas and Hanukkah flower arrangements and seasonal trimmings. For online orders, go to

With more than 300 businesses, downtown Evanston ( is a great shopping destination. And the Central Street Business Association ( reminds everyone that for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community. Help keep tax dollars local.

Walsh Natural Health (2116½ Central St.) sells natural and organic health products for families and pets. Visit for store hours and details. Down the street is The Spice House (1941 Central St.), with exotic spices to please the gourmet cooks on holiday gift lists. Check out the store’s extensive list of recipes at

The Chicago/Dempster Merchants Association ( offers gift ideas galore. Stocked with everything from antiques and folk art to a bit of bling and bikes for the whole family, Dempster Street stores ensure that shopping will not be a chore.

Again this year the Main Street Merchants Association ( will host a Window Wonderland. Actors from Piccolo Theatre will present live holiday window exhibits to delight children and adults. Join the fun on Dec. 12, from noon to 4:30 p.m. Then stroll along Main Street and discover a French boutique as well as rare books, semi-precious stones and Belgian chocolates.

Healthy Green Goods (702 Main St.) carries a variety of gift items such as bags and totes, recycled glassware, beeswax candles and books. Check for holiday hours and other details. Since 1945, Vogue Fabrics (718-732 Main St.) has been a haven for “fabraholics.” For a list of sewing classes go to

If buying at big-box stores is unavoidable, stay in Evanston’s southwest side and go to the shopping centers on Howard, Oakton and Main streets.

Families who want to take a break from shopping will find several ways to welcome in the season without leaving town. The City’s Menorah Lighting Ceremony at Fountain Square is Dec. 14 at 5:30 p.m., with Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Rabbi Dov Hillel Klein illuminating the Menorah. A boys’ choir will perform, and light refreshments will be served.

Celebrate the shortest day of the year at the Evanston Ecology Center’s Winter Solstice ChiliFest. Warm up with a bowl of chili, and learn what the solstice means, how it happens and how that relates to the change of seasons. Pre-registration is required; call the Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick Blvd., at 847-448-8256.

For a different way for the family to meet the man in red, think purple – the CTA’s Purple Line, that is. The Chicago Transit Authority shows its holiday spirit with the 2009 version of the popular Holiday Train. Santa and his helpers will ride the train, passing out candy canes and season’s greetings.

The outside of the six-car train is adorned with holiday seasonal images. Thousands of twinkling lights outline the shape of the train and windows, with even more lights running across the tops of the cars. The Holiday Train is scheduled to run along the Purple Line from 3 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 17 and Dec. 22. Normal CTA fares apply; visit for details.

Contact Eco Gal at or