December 2021

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I felt like a little kid again in the presence of St. Nick last month. I was sitting in front of the man in red, listening to him tell stories in the North Pole. In reality, I was just trying to stay out of photographer John Michael Simpson’s way as he captured local Santa Steve Gillham, all decked out in his suit trimmed in fur. Steve (pictured right) and his wife, Debra Gillham, built a teched-out studio in their Chapel Hill home during the pandemic last year so he could connect with families as far away as New Zealand. The pair revealed how Debra feeds Steve information through his earpiece during the virtual visits, astounding even skeptical older siblings. And that afternoon, I was what Steve would call a “believer,” too.

After the holiday hiatus in 2020, we’re all looking forward to spending time with family and friends this year. Read about how Anna Richards gathers her nearest and dearest for a Kwanzaa karamu feast that she calls a “soul food extravaganza” while across town, the Davidson family makes memories and delicious latkes. The sharing of traditions begins on page 48.

As for me, my partner, Jason, and I don’t exchange gifts for Christmas. For the past few holiday seasons, we’ve opted to buy presents for older adults in the community as part of Home Instead senior care’s Be a Santa to a Senior program. We visit a participating business in town, choose a name or two off the tree and return a few days later with some items off their wish list. I picked a 92-year-old who wanted pajamas and word puzzle games, and Jason is shopping for a man who happens to have the same name as my late grandfather.

At press time, the Starbucks on East Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill and in Eastgate Crossing along with the Orange County Public Library in Hillsborough are acting as tree location sites and will collect gifts through Dec. 12. Why not add just one more name to your shopping list and spread a little cheer? ’Tis the season, after all.  – Jessica Stringer


42 What We’re Eating
News from our restaurant community, plus a few festive cocktails we love

44 Holly Jolly Holidays
Get in the spirit of the season with these festive events

48 The Warmth of Community
Hanukkah provides this Chapel Hill family with a joyful feeling of connection

52 Cultivating Connection
Kwanzaa means a week of reflection and thanksgiving for this family

56 Jolly Old St. Nick
How a Chapel Hill man became Santa

59 Winter Wonderland
A classic Christmas tale inspired a pandemic passion project for this local dentist


30 Just Keep Swimming
A former Division I swimmer’s own health scare drives her passion to connect with other blood clot survivors

34 Food for Thought
Goodness Cooks nourishes the community with simple healthy and clean meals

38 The Big Picture
Runners train at Fleet Feet in Carrboro


24 Downtown Development
What’s up with Chapel Hill’s innovation district

26 Carolina on Our Mind
We talked to two new UNC coaches who were hired in June about their goals and coming to Chapel Hill

64 Modern Farmhouse
West Coast style meets East Coast charm in this creative couple’s home


6 Letter From the Editor

8 About Town
Events not to miss

20 Noted
What we’ve heard around our towns …

79 Dining Guide

87 Weddings
Gage & Shortino
Harris & Monks-Corrigan


12 Festifall
14 NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet
16 2021 Election Night


40 The Big Give
Our local nonprofits, how they support the community and how you can get involved

62 Holiday Gift Guide

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Chapel Hill Mag Intern

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