In Chicago, the holidays are coming on strong

CATW_GrandTree_2011_608From the Saturday, Nov. 1, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky


These days, once Labor Day hits, the holidays never really stop.

As soon as you pack up your picnic gear and bid summer its unofficial adieu, the Halloween costumes begin popping up in stores. And now that Halloween is over and your sugar coma has set in, Thanksgiving is on the mind – although Christmas keeps finding new ways to leapfrog it.

And no place has more holiday stuffing this month than Chicago, as Thanksgiving and Christmas duke it out for November supremacy while even Halloween isn’t quite ready to leave the ring.

Here’s how you can enjoy holiday revelry this month in the Windy City.

Vodou at Field Museum

All Hallow’s Eve may have passed, but at the Field Museum, the spookiness has just begun.

Through April 26, the museum at 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. is hosting a new special exhibition called “Vodou: Sacred Powers of Haiti,” which looks beyond the voodoo stereotypes of zombies, evils spells and dolls stuck with pins to examine “a vital spiritual and social force in the daily life of Haiti.” It’s all still pretty creepy though, if you ask me.

For more information, visit

Christmas Around the World

Christmas doesn’t arrive until Dec. 25, you say?

Well, that’s not the case as the Museum of Science & Industry (5700 S. Lake Shore Dr.), where it commences on Nov. 13 with the debut of “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light,” a holiday spectacle that dates back to 1942 when a singe decorated tree was dedicated to the Allies of World War II.

This year, the museum’s 45-foot Grand Tree will again take center stage in the Rotunda, surrounded by more than 50 smaller trees decorated to represent Chicago’s varied ethnic communities. The celebration runs through Jan. 4.

For more information, visit

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

Billed as the nation’s largest holiday celebration, the BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival begins at midday on Nov. 22 with free family events at Lights Festival Lane in Pioneer Court (401 N. Michigan Ave.).

At 5:30 p.m., the annual Tree-Lighting Parade kicks off at Oak Street and runs the length of the Mag Mile south to the Chicago River, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display.

For more information, visit

Tree Lighting Ceremony & Christkindlmarket

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, Chicago will kick off its 101st annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Daley Plaza in the Loop (50 W. Washington St.), “officially” commencing the holiday season – apparently when Rahm Emanuel says so.

Following live performances and holiday music that begin at 5 p.m., the switch will then be flipped to light the giant tree at 6 p.m. sharp. Santa Claus will also open the doors to his Daley Plaza house that evening, running through Dec. 24.

Best of all, the delightful Christkindlmarket also opens in the plaza at 11 a.m., providing the opportunity through Christmas Eve to explore a German bazaar and feast on brats, potato pancakes and spiced wine while shopping for handmade gifts beneath the backdrop of skyscrapers.

For more information, visit

Thanksgiving Parade

Finally, Turkey Day gets its chance to elbow out Christmas and take center stage in Chicago. On Nov. 27 – Thanksgiving Day – Chicago will host its annual McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade up State Street (that great street) from Congress to Randolph.

The parade, which runs from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and will feature giant helium balloons, floats, marching bands and other lively performance groups, will be broadcast live on television on WGN-Channel 9.

By the time Thanksgiving finally arrives, however, Chicago may already be stuffed on the holidays.