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It’s Christmas! Holiday Adventures in Chicago

December 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020

Frank Brichetto

Chicago Correspondent

Friends and readers, despite face masks, social distancing, and other precautions, Covid-19 is on the rise again, and shut downs, limitations, and other necessary restrictions are in place.  Things change on a daily basis, so please, as we go on our December adventures, let’s remember to always dress warmly, bring masks and always check with our destinations, before we head out, to be sure that nothing changed overnight and we can be on schedule.  We are up for Christmas and Holiday adventures!

So, let’s get started this evening, Friday, December 4th, right after work, with a leisurely walk along the Riverwalk, where we can view the colorful murals that went up this year, and some work we’ve not  appreciated before.  Meet us at the Lake Shore Drive entrance to Riverwalk and we’ll start by walking through the Gateway, a long walkway containing 28 ceramic panels depicting the rise of the city and the significant role of the river in our history. And that’s just the start!

We’ll walk past the ten feet tall “Allium”, one of three sculptures giving visual importance to native plants that help purify the soil. Hmm, I may plant some of those next spring. Here, see this? It’s called The Radiance of Beingand showcases 100 years of Art Deco architecture in Chicago. Is this not beautiful? Just a bit farther we’ll find “The People in Your Neighborhood” a display of fifty-five real Chicagoans, who, as the artist says, are, “Tough, full-browed with a sense of ingenuity and midwestern humbleness, but always toiling, working, moving forward with an almost absurd laugh and grin about this crazy, wonderful city,”  You can check it all out at https://www.chicagoriverwalk.us/publicart.

So with that bit of cheer, let’s head over to 11 E. Illinois St., and Star of Siam, one of Chicago’s oldest and finest Thai restaurants. https://starofsiamchi.com. All the food here is wonderful and fresh, with the vibrant tastes and colors that separate Thai from Chinese cooking. We can share everything, of course, so be adventurous. How about Pla Sarm Rose, a spicy, deep-fried red snapper topped with a “special 3 flavors sauce”? Lower on the spicy scale we have Pad Woon Sen, stir-fried crystal noodles, chicken, shrimp, baby corn, bean sprouts, carrots, pea pods, mushrooms, egg and onion. There is so much to choose from and I’m hungry, aren’t you? Let’s eat.  That was wonderful, travel safely.

Do you remember when we went to see the incomparable magic of Cirque du Soleil? Well, this morning, Saturday, December 5th, we are going to pay them a virtual visit. Join the fun at home as Cirque du Soleil presents free streaming of countless hours of their very best presentations.  It’s all here at CirqueConnect, https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/cirqueconnect, and we can watch it in our living room while having morning coffee. I recommend the “Best of Aerial” video to start.

Even better, there are a great number of classes and exercise videos where we can learn about circus make-up, (Halloween may be over, but how about a small gathering for New Year’s Eve where costume is required?) pick up some outrageous dance moves, or engage in a quick, 30-minute full body workout to shake out the weariness and stiffness that seem to accompany these dreary, winter, work-from-home days.

The “Kids” section holds many resources to help you get through the rest of the school year with energy and enthusiasm. Try starting them with “Cirque Up” and before you know it their face painting skills will match yours, and they’ll be clowning better than Bozo.

Taking a break from the Christmas rush? Then please join us this afternoon, about 1pm, at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 W. Chicago Ave., 773 227-5522, https://uima-chicago.org, and we will take some time to appreciate the fine collection of the wildly divergent works of Ukrainian artists from 1918 or so, through today. Marvel at the variety of materials, the intricacy of the designs, while we learn about the recurrent social and political upheavals this amazing country has been through.  We get so focused on our own space, work, politics, etc., that we forget just how big the rest of the world is.  Occasionally, I need a reminder, like this one.

Most of us will do our Holiday gift shopping online this year, but I just can’t resist strolling downtown, past the window displays, and even actually entering a few of the smaller stores to shop for a trinket or new ornament.  So we will be doing just that this afternoon, Sunday, December 6th, starting about 3pm from State and Madison.  We’ll take in State Street and Michigan Avenue, then finish up at the always incredible Lincoln Park Zoo. ZooLights is back, and “This one-of-a-kind, festive holiday experience offers a merry, family-oriented tradition in the heart of the city. ZooLights will feature hundreds of luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities, all under the glow of millions of illuminated lights, plus reduced capacity admission to keep your family safe.” There are three “Holiday Experience” areas that are sure to delight us all: The Light Maze, The Enchanted Forest, and (my favorite) Snowy Spirits & S’more. Each requires a special “experience” ticket, and comes with its own 3D glasses. How much fun is that? Get all the details and your tickets here: https://www.lpzoo.org/calendar-events/. It’s selling out fast, so please hurry and join us.

Today, Monday, December 7th, is Pearl Harbor Day. Please take a few minutes to contemplate upon the sacrifices made by so many people, around the world, during WWII.

It’s Saturday, December 12th, already; so we hope you’ll join us this evening for a trip to the Illumination at the Morton Arboretum, especially this year, because they have completely re-thought the Illumination experience and converted this spectacular display from a moderate, casual walk to a half hour immersive drive through the facility’s paved roads.  Filled with tunnels of light, dazzling trees, and a host of other arrangements and displays, we won’t be disappointed.  After that we’ll order some take-out food nearby, and have our own “tailgate” party in a parking lot.

This year our families are having small “tree decorating parties” and today, Sunday, December 13th, is our day. We hope that this becomes a new tradition; perhaps your family will do something similar and start a new tradition of your own.

The Holidays are always a time for giving presents, for being thankful for what we have, and for lending a hand, where we can, to others who are struggling.  This year especially, with its pandemic, shutdowns, and so much loss for so many, it’s time to really pitch in and help. So this weekend, from Friday, December 18th, through Sunday, December 20th, we will be volunteering with our favorite charities.  I’ll be spending time with the great folks at Working Bikes, most likely preparing donated bikes for deserving parents to place beneath the tree for their youngsters.  We will also spend time together helping to feed the hungry through a local food pantry. If this sort of thing calls to you, please contact Working Bikes, www.workingbikes.org, Catholic Charities, https://www.ccofchicagovolunteer.com/, or perhaps the Salvation Army, https://centralusa.salvationarmy.org/metro/volunteer/.

It’s almost Christmas! Oh boy! We are so excited that we feel like kids and want to jump around and giggle.  Today, Thursday, December 24th, is Christmas Eve, of course, and we are getting our house “all dressed up”, for the first family gathering tonight. All the traditional dishes of an “American Farm” cuisine will be savored and devoured. There will be sports and Christmas movies on the TVs, card games around the table after dinner, and that warm, gentle feeling that comes from having those we love and trust surround us.  Midnight Mass will be on TV this year, but really, that’s OK.

Christmas!! Hip Hip Hooray!! It’s Friday, December 25th, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s the relatives turn to host the family today, and the kids will finally get to open long-awaited presents. HA! Little do they know that we all decided to get them Ugly Sweaters that they have to wear today. Yes, toys and games and even a couple of bicycles are in order, but the sweaters MUST be worn. Great fun! Enjoy this time with your families and closest friends, visit virtually those who cannot attend, and keep your hearts open to “Peace on Earth, Good will towards men.”


Thursday, December 31st, is New Year’s Eve and it is really, truly time to celebrate the end of the old year and the start of the new one.  We are taking our own advice and hosting a small costume party.  We’re starting early and the nieces and nephews can’t wait to show off their newly acquired face painting skills. Neither can we! Things will start early, then ramble on past midnight, when we’ll pop the corks, drink champagne, hug and kiss our “significant other”, and breathe a deep sigh of relief.  We’re hearing rumors that a viable Covid-19 vaccine may be here soon, new treatments are showing promise in relieving the misery of those who are infected, and all-in-all, things are looking up for the whole world. Amen to that!

Despite all the fanfare yesterday, today, Friday, January 1st, is not about the new vaccine, the improving economy, or how crazy things have been around here lately.  No, today, football rules the roost, so the TVs are on, the wings chips and dips are on the tables, and the beverages are cold and ready.  Grab a chair and enjoy the fun as the fans of different teams, especially those with fantasy teams, get up and down, argue, laugh, eat, drink and have an honestly good time.  I’m related to all these people?  How did that happen?


The holidays are not quite over yet, fellow adventurers.  This evening, Saturday, January 2nd, is time to experience Lightscape, at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe.  This is a fantastic way to end our month of adventures, as we walk through the Cathedral of Light, past acres of trees colorfully and expertly arranged with lights, candles and sounds that are quite dazzling. This year the path is one way only, of course, laid out with care and sure to amaze us.  Isn’t this fabulous? Hot chocolate, anyone?

Well, my good friends and dear readers, 2020 is over. I hope your celebrations for the Holidays, especially the New Year, have brought you many reasons to be happy, grateful and hopeful that the coming year will be healthy and adventurous for all of us.