For 35 years, the Spero family has been celebrating Christmas Eve serenading their neighbors.
“It’s one time a year that’s really special,” said Sandy Spero, a graduate of Burbank High School, along with her children and grandchildren who join in the annual caroling tradition. This year, even Toby, the family’s terrier mix, came along.
The first 20 years, they caroled north of Kenneth Road on Frederic, Naomi and Buena Vista streets, then they moved the party to Mike and Sandy Spero’s house on Karen Street where they traveled along Richard and Kenneth streets.
Friday night there were 40 family and friends and most of them went caroling after enjoying a round of hors d’ ouvres. Dinner and a huge assortment of desserts come later.
“Neighbors, they love it,” Sandy Spero said. “Some come out and sing with you and they have little children and Santa goes with us. They think it is so special we come to their house.”
Playing Santa for the second year was Zachary Telkamp, 16, a sophomore at Burbank High School.
“Some of the kids are skeptical that I’m the real Santa Claus, but most buy into it,” Zachary said. “I tell them to get to bed on time so I can come back and deliver their gifts. And the parents seem to be really onboard with that!”
Last year, a 5-year-old boy didn’t believe he was Santa Claus, but by the time the carolers left, “we had him!” Zachary said.
“He was screaming and crying with joy,” chimed in Zachary’s mom Geni Telkamp. “He stuck with him like glue.”
Zachary inherited the job as Santa from his dad, Scott Telkamp.
“Some neighbors wait for us,” Scott Telkamp said. “People in Burbank are so good-hearted. They have cookies and baked goods for us. There’s something special left in Burbank. And nobody seems to care that we are out of tune.”
The first stop for caroling was next door at the home of June Forrest who has lived in the same house for 55 years.
“I had a Swedish dinner three years ago and we had many members of the group here and we came out to listen to the carolers,” Forrest said. “It was wonderful.”
Her son Stephen Forrest, of Encino, was spending Christmas Eve this year with his mother. Caroling, he said, is one of many beloved traditions that have been lost in communities like Burbank and in the Valley.
“The last time we had carolers, I was 10 and visiting my grandmother’s house in Glendale 50-plus years ago,” Stephen Forrest said.
The Spero family carolers also stopped at the wall outside of the home of Angelo and Elizabeth Dahlia.
“We’re their biggest fans,” Elizabeth Dahlia said. “For the past 10 years we’ve looked forward to them coming by our house.”
Waiting for the carolers to “come to the wall” is their family tradition, said Loretta Nardini, Elizabeth Dahlia’s sister.
“We go to church Christmas Eve at St. Francis Xavier then come to Elizabeth and Angelo’s,” Nardini said.
“The carolers are a tradition and it solidifies Christmas,” Angelo Dahlia said.