Thanksgiving is over, and it’s getting dark at 4:30 pm. Ready or not, the holidays are fast approaching. To help you prepare & celebrate the holidays Chicago-style 2022, here are some suggestions from a lifelong native Chicagoan to brighten up your dark, cold days.
holiday Chicago-style things to do
There are many options for holiday Chicago-style things to do at Millennium Park. So bundle up and go have some seasonal, festive fun.
You can join in Caroling at Cloud Gate. Click here for details. Like to ice skate? Go take a spin at the Tribune McCormick Ice rink or the Skating Ribbon at Maggie Daley Park. Click here for city-wide ice rinks.
Did you know? The Great Tree at Millennium Park is picked from nearly 80 entries in the city’s annual hunt for a tree. This year’s tree was donated by the Glisovic family in Morton Grove. The 55-foot Colorado Blue Spruce took around 45 years to grow to that height from seed. All nominations had to be at least 45 feet tall and be located less than 50 miles from Millennium Park and should be either a Norway Spruce or Fir Tree.
holiday traditions Chicago-style
Marshall Field’s was the premiere department store in the Midwest, known for impeccable customer care, quality merchandise, generous return policies, and multiple services ranging from tea rooms to relaxation rooms and shoe repair to hotel bookings. “Give the lady what she wants!”
A long-standing tradition of Marshall Field was the holiday windows that have delighted Chicagoans of all ages for decades. What started as a showcase of holiday gift merchandise in 1944 became windows that tell a story. The story panels were such a hit they were repeated the next year.
Then came a new holiday window trend where each store had its own mascot. Montgomery Wards created Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Marshall Field invented Uncle Mistletoe (pictured in the lower right-hand corner of the above photo). A chubby little figure dressed in a red coat and black top hat who lived in the Cozy Cloud Cottage with Aunt Holly. With white wings, he flew around the world, teaching children the importance of kindness at Christmas.
Great Tree at the Walnut Room
At the historic Marshall Fields building currently, Macy’s on State Street, head up to the 7th floor to see the Great Tree in the historic Walnut Room. It started as a Tea Room in 1890 and was named the Walnut Room because of the beautiful Circassian Walnut paneling.
This 45 ft beauty is made up of multiple artificial trees and takes 3 days with 30 artisans on scaffolds to assemble. It is suspended from the ceiling so as not to add any weight to the beautiful Tiffany ceiling below.
more Chicago-style holiday favorites
Another favorite part of many Chicagoans’ holiday traditions is dining (chicken pot pie!) under the Great Tree. And we can’t forget those delicious Frango Mints. Both are great stories that make up the unique history of Marshall Field.
At the turn of the century, it was frowned upon for ladies to dine alone, so if they were here shopping and became peckish, they would have to go back home for lunch. Until one day Mrs. Herring, who worked in the millinery (hat) department, offered to share her lunch with a hungry shopper, which happened to be her grandmother’s recipe for chicken pot pie. The shopper was so happy because the lunch was so delicious, and she didn’t have to return home that she asked if she could invite her friends back tomorrow. They enjoyed a lovely hat fashion show luncheon. And the rest is history!
Ask any Chicagoan about Frango Mints, and I’m sure they have a fond memory. They were made in-house on the 13th floor of the North Light Well for 70 years!
Chriskindlmarket Since 1996, this magical holiday market has been delighting locals & tourists alike with its delicious food, drinks, sights & sounds. It is our version of a quaint German Christmas Market, complete with not only authentic German vendors but vendors from all over the world. There are also Chriskindlmarkets in Wrigleyville & Aurora. Enjoy some Glühwein in your souvenir mug (changes yearly) and get some holiday shopping done. Prost! Click here for more info.
Holiday Afternoon Tea at the Drake Hotel Sip your favorite tea while experiencing a Real Chicago tradition at The Drake Hotel. The Holiday Afternoon Tea reservations are available in both Palm Court and on selected dates in Club International. A live harpist and holiday carolers will be stationed to perform on select dates through Christmas. Click here for more details.
The Music Box Theatre Need a new holiday tradition? Why not enjoy the 39th annual Christmas Sing-A-Long & Double Feature? Lots of good family fun. Click here for showtimes.
cta holiday train Taking public transportation can be quite the experience, but at this time of year, it will be the most joyful ride you’ll ever have! Here is a link for the cta Holiday Train and other train shows.
ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is one of my very favorite holiday traditions with some of my favorite people! Check out the calendar & events here for festive family-friendly & adult-only activities.
Here are more holiday light shows throughout Chicagoland.
Christmas Around the World & Holiday of Lights A holiday season would not be complete without a trip to the Museum of Science & Industry (MSI). Explore rich holiday traditions from around the globe while creating your own traditions with loved ones this season.
This year, we celebrate the 80th anniversary of this beloved Chicago tradition, which began in 1942 with a single tree, newly decorated every day for 12 days to represent the countries fighting alongside America during World War II.
Today, Christmas Around the World features more than 50 trees highlighting a variety of countries and cultures, offering insight into the holiday customs celebrated by families around the world. These trees and displays are decorated by volunteers from around the Chicagoland area to represent the holiday traditions from cultures around the globe. The centerpiece surrounded by this dazzling display is the four-story, floor-to-dome Grand Tree in the Museum’s Rotunda. You can also explore Holidays of Light, a celebration of global holidays throughout the year that honor light and enlightenment.
It’s the one-of-a-kind experience that brings a whole world of holiday joy under one roof. Click here for more details.
There are multiple holiday markets to choose from. Here are some of my favorites.
The oneofakind show at the Merchandise Mart, Dec 1-4. Now in its 21st year in Chicago, the One of a Kind Holiday Show brings together 500 talented artists, makers, and designers with thousands of happy shoppers who love art and original work. The show continues to be the best place in Chicago to find truly unique and meaningful gifts for the holidays. Get ticket info here.
Chicago Holiday Antique Market Randolph Street Find the most unusual and stylishly crafted mix of vintage and modern decorative objects, housewares, fashion for men/women/children, art, hostess gifts, and more from 125 vendors! Enjoy our market bar for a bloody mary, beer, wine, or champagne and local eateries while browsing vendors on three floors in the Plumbers Hall building! Click here for details. Click here to read about the market.
Revival Holiday Market Revival Food Hall is transforming into a winter wonderland during our Holiday Market! Check your list and head down to the hall for this twelve-day shopping event. Enjoy perusing local vendors in our Curbside Record space beginning at 3 pm and stay for dinner, festive drinks, and live music beginning at 5 pm. Click here for details.
From Aurora to Wheaton, here is a link to Holiday, Winter & Christmas markets in Illinois.
TubaChristmas is taking place on December 18 at the Palmer House in Chicago. Click here for more info & other locations in Illinois.
A Musical Tribute to A Charlie Brown Christmas, Studebaker Theatre, Fine Arts Building Did you know that this building once was a carriage assembly & showroom for the Studebaker company? How cool is that? Read about it here & even more amazing history. Click here for concert & other event information.
This is my second favorite building in the Loop, and here’s why. First, because of its incredible history; second, this is the only building left in the city with a human elevator operator; and third, it offers some really cool events like Second Fridays, where you can partake in the open studio tour and attend NPR’s Peabody Award-winning quiz show, Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
I’m lucky to have had many opportunities to be in this building over the years, from taking classes to leading a group of student musicians where we saw violins being made. Just incredible!
For more holiday concerts, click here.
Northwest Side Holiday Trolley Go explore a new neighborhood and get your holiday shopping done! How about Six Corners on the Northwest side? Jump on the holiday trolley and visit 30 small businesses. Click here for trolley locations and here for a handy guide of where to drink/eat/shop.
do your holiday shopping locally
Here is Block Club Chicago’s Ultimate Guide To Shopping Local In Chicago For The Holidays In 2022 and more!
Block Club Chicago is a great resource to keep you posted on what’s happening in all of Chicago’s neighborhoods and they are looking for new subscribers! Please consider subscribing and for a limited time you’ll get one of these really cool WPA-inspired Chicago neighborhood posters by local artist Steve Shanabruch. Click here for more information.
holiday pop-up bars
Butch McGuire’s is all decked out for the holidays. It is the original over-the-top decorated for the holiday bar before holiday pop-ups became a thing. Click here for a sneak peek.
From Rudolph to Hanukkah, click here for a list of more for the whole family to enjoy.
When was the last time you donated blood? Supplies are critically low in the winter. Please consider giving blood and add the title of life-giver to your resume. Click here for more info.
good deed & delicious
And last but not least, here is a win-win-win! When you sign up for the First Slice subscriber program you get three high-quality meals for your family (first win!), and it helps them provide over 750 meals a week to those in our community who struggle with hunger & homelessness(second win!). The ingredients are locally-sourced whenever possible, taking advantage of their committed relationship with their farmer partners. (third win!)
see you next year!
I hope you enjoyed how to celebrate the holidays Chicago-style 2022. I’m working on becoming a snowbird, so if you don’t hear from me next month, I’m off doing some research.
Until the next adventure my friends! Be well, stay warm & I wish you the happiest of holidays.