CHICAGO, Wednesday, October 31, 2012. For generations of Chicagoans, dining at Marshall Field’s Walnut Room in front of their grand two-story Christmas tree was the real deal–the real Christmas tree, the real Santa Claus could only be found in the confines of Chicago’s original Marshall Field’s State Street Store. For Chicago kids, the other “Santas” on the street and in other stores were only Santa helpers to Marshall Field’s real Santa.
Beginning early in the last century, when horse-drawn vehicles were still in vogue along that “Great Street”, legions of families would put on their Sunday best and head to Marshall Field’s on State Street. Parents brought their children, the children grew-up and brought their children, grandparents and even great-grandparents all became part of the party that grew larger each year.
Before pagers, people would think nothing of waiting in line for an hour or even two hours–the excitement building as they looked up at the magical tree in the elegant Walnut Room dressed in its holiday best–surrounded by beautiful Circassian wood walls, imported from Russia, and lit by twinkling Austrian chandeliers that glistened above.
Then, to the chagrin of many Chicagoans, Macy’s came along in 2006 changing the sacred Marshall Field’s name to their own. It was almost like a death in the collective Chicago community. However, Macy’s had the foresight to keep the tradition going–winning back the hearts of at least a portion of the community.
The “Great Tree Lighting” which has become an unofficial kick-off to Chicago’s holiday season (which seems to kick-off a little earlier each year) will take place this Saturday. This year’s ceremony features Chris Mann, a classically-trained, American singer-songwriter that recently appeared as a finalist on “The Voice” on NBC.
The kick-off event will be an all-afternoon affair, beginning at noon with a three-song performance of holiday music by Mann from his new holiday album followed by the flipping of the “switch” that will turn on the 15,000 sparkling LED twinkle lights that adorn the 45-foot-tree.
The theme of this year’s Great Tree is “You’re a Star!” The Great Tree will be adorned with 42 LED star ornaments ranging from 18 inches to 30 inches across. Giant stars, lit from the inside, will circle the base of the tree ranging from 9 feet to 6 feet across.
At 1:00p.m. the store will hold a Family Fun Fest in the Kid’s department on level 5 with face painting, balloon twisting, a visit from Radio Disney and more.
This year’s holiday windows, themed “The Magic of Christmas”, will be on view beginning at at 9 a.m. Saturday. The animated holiday windows will bring nostalgia to Chicagoans this year, touching on Macy’s history at the State Street store, emphasizing the iconic Marshall Field’s traditions of the past and Macy’s commitment to continuing those traditions today.
Macy’s SantaLand® will open this Saturday at 10 a.m. for children to visit Santa and get their pictures taken with the Jolly Old Elf. Santa will be on hand weekends until Thanksgiving and then daily through December 24.
The Great Tree will be on display from Saturday, November 3 through Sunday, January 13, 2013. For a listing of additional upcoming holiday events in Chicago visit Chicago Holiday Events on Show Me Chicago.