The festive atmosphere was present at the Steeleville Eagles last Saturday.
With turkey, stuffing ham, corn, green beans and a variety of desserts available, the business was the site of the inaugural community Christmas meal - a free offering for those with nowhere to go on Christmas Eve.
Those who wished to partake in the meal were free to come and go as they pleased in a buffet-style dinner that celebrated fellowship.
"It"s the first year in my 42 years of being married that we didn"t have a family gathering on my husband"s side," said meal coordinator Cindy Sickmeyer, who is also a Steeleville village board member. "So, I just thought, I"d like to do something other than just us being home by ourselves.
"There"s probably other people who would be home by themselves on Christmas eve, so I thought why not put a meal together."
Sickmeyer is a member of the Eagles, which agreed to to host the event.
"I just opened it up to the community, took the invitation over to the senior site and my husband and daughter did deliver six meals to those who didn"t feel like they could come down (to the Eagles)," she said.
Altogether, Sickmeyer estimated around 30 people participated in the free meal.
"My thoughts kinda were yes, probably," Sickmeyer said on if the meal would be an annual event. "I had some cooperation and some help from my family and a couple of friends."
The hectic nature of the holiday season has led to more people staying home on Christmas Eve. According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2013, the latest data was available, 86 percent of adults said they would gather with extended family or friends on Christmas or Christmas Eve, down from 91 percent when they were children.
Overall, about nine-in-10 Americans (92 percent) and nearly all Christians (96 percent) celebrate Christmas, while 81 percent of non-Christians in the U.S. also celebrate the holiday, according to the 2013 study.
"I told someone "I cook at home, but I don"t ever usually cook for a bunch of people,"" Sickmeyer said. "My fear is I don"t want to run out of food, so I think I was cooking for 40 people and it may have been for 50 or so."
Sickmeyer downplayed the significance of the meal, but also stressed the community aspect of it.
"I know there are people who may not have had a hot meal," Sickmeyer said. "I just wanted to do that for them."