Tree Lighting Fireworks

Is there anything more breathtakingly stirring than an enormous, majestic Christmas tree? Chicago doesn't think so, and hasn't for 100 years. This year on November 26, the city commemorates a century of this tree-lighting holiday tradition and plans to celebrate in big, jolly way. Learn more about the history of this Chicago tradition, and become a part of it yourself!

A citywide tradition started in 1913, this tree-lighting ceremony was originally started in the honor of a Captain Herman Scheunemann, captain of The Rouse Simmons, known as "The Christmas Tree Ship" which was lost in a storm on Lake Michigan in 1912. Though initially commemorating a lost captain at sea, this event brought Chicagoans together in Grant Park during the holiday season in such a profound way that it continued year after year as a beacon of hope and happiness at the beginning of every holiday season from then on. In a Chicago Tribune piece about the event published in 1913, the tree clad in 600 multi-colored lights was referred to as "the big granddaddy of all the Christmas trees in the country." This tree was said to bring a hard-working and struggling class of Chicagoans together, because now they had something that "belongs to the city and rich and poor alike may enjoy it." 

 History Museum Tree Lighting

While this original tree dazzled and amazed onlookers at the time at a whopping 35 feet tall, this year's Colorado blue spruce Christmas Tree at Daley Plaza stands just a bit higher at 57 feet. Since 2009, Chicago's Christmas tree has been a single tree donated by a Chicago-area family, and this year's tree winner comes from the Moore Family in South Holland, IL, who will join Mayor Emanuel and Santa Claus at the Tree Lighting on November 26.  

Tree Lighting Daley Plaza

This year's celebration will feature a live performances headlined by Darlene Love, best known for her work with Phil Spector for the holiday favorite "Christmas Baby Please come Home," a song she's sung every year on Late Night With David Letterman for nearly 30 years. You'll also see The Trainees from the Joffrey Academy of Dance performing an excerpt from holiday classic The Nutcracker, songs from Broadway in Chicago's Elf The Musical and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical.

Chicago's Christmas tree will be on display at Daley Plaza through January 9, 2014 at Daley Plaza (located at Washington & Dearborn). There will be no shortage of Christmas cheer or twinkling lights, so be sure to mark your holiday calendar for November 26 with festivities beginning at 5 PM and the tree lighting at 6 PM, and become a part of this exciting tradition, 100 years in the making.

For the latest updates, be sure to check out Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events here.