The winter months are upon us, the weather is unpredictable, and winds coming from Lake Michigan can knock us right off our feet. So, as we bravely adventure this month, let’s remember to always dress appropriately and be prepared. Several of this month’s activities require tickets purchased in advance, online, so please check websites and register early.
Starting the month’s adventures mid-week is a bit unusual, granted, but today, Tuesday, November 7th, is a free admissions day at the Field Museum of Natural History, https://www.fieldmuseum.org. It’s on the Museum Campus at 1400 S. Dusable Lake Shore Drive, so hey, let’s go.
There are two exhibits that we should explore. The first, “Looking at Ourselves: Rethinking the Sculptures of Malvina Hoffman” has 50 bronze sculptures on display. They were created in the early 1930s, and displayed with a narrative characterizing them as “racial types”. Take a good look, here, at this one of a man from the Crow tribe in America. It doesn’t take much imagination to give him a different haircut; then he looks very European. The false narratives of “race” can easily fall apart when we look at these statues and read about the individual people whose likenesses were being sculpted.
The second, “Africa”, offers a glimpse into some of the varied cultures and environments across this vast continent. Did you know there are fifty-four countries in Africa, and people there speak over 2,000 different languages? Here’s a display and video from a hectic city in Senegal, there’s another display showing an industrial workshop in. If we pay attention, we’ll come away with a new understanding of world history.
In the United States, today Friday, November 10th, and tomorrow, November 11th, are both marked as Veterans Day, also known as Armistice Day. The Armistice, signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, marked the end of combat hostilities in World War I. “The War To End All Wars” ended with about 14 million dead and 23 million wounded across the globe. Today is the National Holiday and tomorrow commemorates the actual day the Armistice was signed.
After World War II, which was far worse, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, upon which we honor all of America’s military personnel. Let’s take a few moments on both days to honor those who have served.
Chicago is one of the capitals of Jazz, and there are celebratory concerts both Friday and Saturday, November 10th &11th, at Elastic Arts, #208, 3429 W. Diversey Ave., at 8:30pm. This is the 28th Annual concert from Asian Improv aRts Midwest, https://aajazz.org/, and we’ll be hearing the founder, Tatsu Aoki, and guest artists Takashi Shallow, Devon Osamu Tipp, and Hitomi Oba as they and the other members offer virtuoso performances on an extensive variety of instruments and cross through multiple jazz genres.
“We are proud of our history of producing high quality arts programs reflecting the multicultural, multi-ethnic reality of Chicago and the nation. For nearly three decades, this annual festival, and this year’s program in particular, have been a perfect example of that mission in action,” says Aoki.
This evening, Friday, November 17th, Mayor Johnson and a host of city officials will light up the winter sky as the 110th annual Chicago Christmas Tree lights switch on for the season. You know we’ll both be there, along with a few thousand other Chicagoans, so please come join the fun, starting at 5:00pm. It’s standing in the Promenade, near Cloud Gate (aka “the Bean”) and we’ll all be crowding around having fun, talking with complete strangers, and oh, here’s the countdown, three, two, one, and WOW. Isn’t that always a beautiful sight? Take lots of pictures! Smile everyone! We’ll be back tomorrow.
Oh boy, this will be a long and wonderful day, because today, Saturday, November 18th, the Holiday Season begins in earnest. The Magnificent Mile Lights Festival has so much to see and do, so let’s stroll up Michigan Ave., wander through Pioneer Court, and take in pop-up musical and special performances scattered up and down the street. We must find and hear a few pieces by “The Noggeler”, a weirdly costumed, and quite wonderful band from Chicago’s Sister City Lucerne, Switzerland. There will be plenty of time to snack around until the Lights Parade begins at 5:30pm.
Grand Marshals Mickey and Minnie Mouse are up front, followed by four marching bands from Illinois, Michigan and even Ohio and Alabama. Do you see that: that’s Sister Sledge, and over there, isn’t that Colin Stough from American Idol? Who else is here? Isn’t it fun to watch the lights on Michigan Avenue come on as the parade passes? Of course, Santa Claus himself is on the “Grande Finale Float”. The whole thing finishes with fireworks, just watch, launching over the Chicago River, with colors and lights and really loud BOOMs. Isn’t this just great?
Gather your family around today, Thursday, November 23rd, load everyone on the train or the “L” and get downtown for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Don’t worry about dinner, you’ll be back in plenty of time, but you have to hurry in the morning, because the fabulous parade (rated 2nd in the country!) starts at 8:00am, on State St., and goes up to Randolph St. We probably won’t see you in the crowds, but we’ll be there, cheering and clapping as the marching bands, horse brigades, and colorful floats, complete with their giant helium balloons, stream by. There will be stages along the way with their own entertainment. Our city calls this event “Where Grateful Hearts Gather” and what could be more appropriate?
Join us, please, tonight Saturday, November 25th, at Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago, 108 W. Germania Pl., and we’ll step into a very different holiday experience. Resembling a German beer hall, we’ll find seats at one of the long tables, enjoy a good cocktail, indulge in a snack or two and meet a few of the others sitting around us. The entire space is video-mapped in “winter wonderland and holiday scenery projections” and is complete with live musicians and DJs. It’s called “BarHumbug”, thebarhumbug.com, do you believe that?
Today, Sunday, November 26th, we can celebrate Chicago’s hardworking crafts people, those who spend many hours searching for just the right stone, piece of material, or tangled stump of wood and then patiently work them into tools, clothing or art work to brighten our homes and lives. Join us, please, at the Chicago Artisan Market, Artifact Events Bldg., 4325 N. Ravenswood Ave., https://chicagoartisanmarket.com. In the last few years Ravenswood has become a magnet for unusual restaurants, craft breweries, and small retail stores.
The building itself is a warm and inviting structure, with high ceilings, lots of natural light, exposed brick walls, well-worn wood floors, and a wonderful atrium. It’s comfortable and familiar, yet quite distinctive with a multiplicity of architectural features. This makes it the perfect place to spend a November day; look around, there are about 100 different vendors, all of whom are people who make their offerings by hand. Paintings, ceramics, sculptures, look at all this cool stuff. What to choose? I’ve been looking for some cutting boards that aren’t plastic, and here are several, made by hand, just what I’m looking for. How about you, what have you found?
There’s lots of food here, aren’t you getting hungry? Let’s have a plate of different cheeses and fresh baked crackers, with some tea. We can finish with some chocolates from Chicago’s best and most artistic chocolatier, Sweet Designs by Kathy. Look at these, aren’t they almost too beautiful to eat?
Let’s finish up this month, as we so frequently do, in next month. Today, Saturday, December 2nd, we can ride the Metra train out to Aurora, and spend time wandering through the Christkindlmarket in RiverEdge Park. 360 N. Broadway. Their website, https://www.christkindlmarket.com, tells us, “The Christkindlmarket unites cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm. Inspired by the 16th century Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, one of the first outdoor markets of its kind, the Christkindlmarket is well-known for its vendors’ high-quality gifts and food, holiday cheer, and for being the ideal place for families to make unique memories.”
Look at the booths and temporary buildings, bringing to America the feel of a small German village. We can find ornaments for our Christmas trees, unique and unusual gifts for that impossible-to-shop-for loved one. There’s live music right now, let’s check that out. Isn’t this fun? Now let’s eat some Raclette, a sausage or two, and perhaps a bit of soup. Hmmm, doesn’t this warm your stomach and cheer your spirits? Now, how about if we get souvenir mugs filled with hot chocolate or, my personal favorite, Glühwein, a German mulled wine?
Here we can also learn of the “Christkindl” tradition, from which the “Christkindlmarkt” gets its name: “The “Christkindl”, a fairy-like being dressed in gold and white robes with a crown upon her
golden locks, is the namesake of the Christkindlmarket. Christkindl folklore dates back to the 1500s and stems from traditional customs: parades during the holiday season were guided by
one “grand” angel, the Christkindl. Since then, and still today, she is the bearer of gifts to most
children in German-speaking countries, much like Santa Claus is in the United States.
Traditionally, gifts are exchanged December 24th and delivered by the Christkindl, who leaves
them under the Christmas tree and disappears before the children can catch a glimpse of her.”
Well friends and readers, here we are already in December. It’s almost Christmas and then New Year. How did this year go by so quickly? But it’s not quite done yet, so until next month, fill your life with love and adventure.