Traditions Old and New Help Define the Holidays in Chicago

By Edward Bury, APR
Director of Marketing & Communications, BOMA/Chicago

One great aspect of the holiday season centers on passing down practices and customs from one generation in the family to the next.  Following long-standing traditions and establishing new ones gives substance and purpose to this time of year.

Like families, cities also have holiday traditions; and, Chicago certainly is no exception.

The festive lions outside of the Art Institute of Chicago

The festive lions outside of the Art Institute of Chicago

Visit downtown over the next few weeks.  Lights, wreaths and Christmas trees now adorn office building lobbies and storefronts, a sure sign the city fully embraces the holidays.  Here are a few of the city’s best-known holiday traditions.  Some have a storied history, others are relatively new.  Collectively, they  help inspire the holiday spirit to those who work, live and visit here.

  • Marshall Field’s/Macy’s Christmas Windows.  For generations of Chicago kids – and adults, too — the highlight of a trip downtown was a stroll along State Street past Marshall Field’s department store to view the Christmas Windows.  Each year since 1946 this flagship retail store (now owned by Macy’s) creates a holiday theme that tells a story as one strolls the length of the building. This year, the windows along State Street will feature the story behind Macy’s celebrity-inspired ornaments.

  • Chriskindlemarket in Daley Plaza

    Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza

    Christkindlmarket in Daley Center.  The Richard J. Daley Center, named after the late, iconic mayor, is one of Chicago’s best-known public spaces.  One reason: It houses the perplexing sculpture from iconic artist Pablo Picasso.  But from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve, the plaza is transformed into the Christkindlmarket, a holiday-themed open-air market featuring food, artisans, the city’s official Christmas tree and of course, Santa Claus.  The Christkindlmarket tradition was started in Germany in the 1550s; at the Daley Center, the market first opened in 1997.

  • Art Institute Lion Wreaths.  Each year, the two massive bronze lions that stand guard outside the main entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago are adorned with traditional holiday green wreaths. That wasn’t the case last year, when a pair of designers incorporated a modern element to the wreaths: 2011 solar power lights, each signifying a wish from a Chicago-area child.
  • Caroling at Chicago's Cloud Gate, also known as "The Bean"

    Caroling at Cloud Gate.  Locals and visitors have dubbed the stainless steel sculpture in Millennium Park “The Bean.”  But it’s really named Cloud Gate.  For the past six years, Chicagoans have gathered in front of the famous sculpture to hear holiday songs performed by local choirs.  The performances are free and held Fridays at 6 p.m.

  • CTA Holiday Train.  This holiday tradition is a little bit tougher to locate, because it’s always on the move.  Since 1991, the Chicago Transit Authority has hosted the Holiday Train, a special rapid transit train that’s decorated with thousands of lights, bows and garlands. And, even though he’s busy during the holiday season, Santa is on board to greet commuters.  The Holiday Train runs through December 22 on all eight CTA rapid transit lines.

The CTA Holiday Train

The CTA Holiday Train

Of course, there are many other Chicago traditions embraced by the civic and real estate communities.  Many BOMA/Chicago building members light their properties in red and green during the holidays. And, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, North Michigan Avenue gears up for the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival ™, now in its 20th year.

Does your building or company have a new or long-standing holiday tradition?  Share your thoughts with us and send images. Help spread the holiday spirit.


About Edward Bury

Director of Marketing & Communications at BOMA/Chicago
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2 Responses to Traditions Old and New Help Define the Holidays in Chicago

  1. Pingback: Next Stop For The BOMA/Chicago Elevator Speech: Another Year of Productive Blogging | BOMA/Chicago's The Elevator Speech

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