What's Your Sign? Mine is Frango!

frangoWhat's your sign?

No. I'm not talking horoscope here. I only think about those signs when I am trying to come up with a ten-letter word for "Fire Sign" on the Sunday Crossword Puzzle. What is the first sign for you that the holiday season is upon us?

Forget about Thanksgiving. That's an occasion all to itself. Turkey Day with its Macy's Day Parade and National Dog Show may initiate the shopping season, but that's not the same as the holiday season with all its pageantry and warm feelings. And to me, the radio stations that start playing Christmas music in November (or is it October?) aren't a signal for the holidays, rather they are a large part of the reason I limit my radio listening to sports talk and NPR--and listening to congressional hearings is certainly no way to get into the holiday spirit (unless impeachment will be the best present you could find under the tree!)

So do the holidays begin for you with an advent calendar? An elf on a shelf? The anticipation of crunchy latkes, a brightly lit menorah, and a spinning dreidel? Or maybe the spirit doesn't take hold for you until you are watching the Costanzas celebrate Festivus, or the 50th viewing of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed happy at last in "It's a Wonderful Life."

For me,  this is where the Frango Mints come in.  Fourteen years ago the UroPartners Laboratory that I was creating was under construction. I was spending my days at the Oakbrook offices of our corporate consultant making plans and spending sleepless nights praying the equipment I had ordered would fit through the doors of the new lab space. Then one day in early December I walked into the consultant's suite to be overwhelmed by the smell of chocolate.

Gerry, the receptionist, sat behind a counter stacked with piles and piles and piles of boxes of Frango Mints. She was wrapping and shipping boxes of the signature Chicago treat (Macy's was still a year away from buying Fields,) attaching holiday cards signed by each of the firm's partners. And there were hundreds of clients. The process took days, and the chocolatey aroma lingered for days beyond that. I think I could still smell it attending the employee holiday party that I had been invited to.

And every year since then, a box of Frango Mints has been delivered to the Lab the first week in December. Just like all of our equipment, the chocolates fit easily through the front door. Unlike the equipment, candies disappear within a day or two.

This year's box arrived a few days ago. I have resisted so far, trying to limit sweets during the day. But whether I eat a Frango or not, with that delivery, and the attached card from the consulting partners (all different than the ones fourteen years ago) I know the holiday season has begun.

So what's YOUR sign?

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