Thursday, October 22, 2015

Moving Christmas tree closer to people rather than pols; what about menorah?

In a certain sense, it makes sense for Chicago’s official Christmas holiday tree to move from its current location in the Daley Plaza.

This scene from 2013 won't be returning to Daley Plaza come December. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda
That location puts the city’s giant tree within sight of the Daley Center courthouse and the Cook County Building, while being within a quick walk of City Hall and the Thompson Center state government building.

IN SHORT, THE perfect spot for all of the city’s politically-oriented people to have the tree within their sightline, or close by for their thoughts.

Considering that our politicos often think they are the center of the universe (and consider those people with little to no interest in politics or government to be subversives), it is no wonder that the tree has been in the same place for virtually every year since 1966.

The Chicago Tribune reported that there was one holiday season (1982) when the city set up the official tree at State Street and Wacker Drive – although I honestly have no recollection of that moment (even though I was 17 and was very much city-based back then – I left for college in Bloomington, Ill., and Washington, D.C. the following year).

Considering that I was born in ’65 (yes, I turned a half-century old a couple of months ago), it isn’t an exaggeration for me to say that the holiday tree is a life-long tradition for me.

Picasso seems so lonely the rest of year
YOU CHECK OUT the holiday decorations set up on State Street in the department store windows, then venture over to the Daley Plaza to see the tree.

Although in recent years, there has been that German-themed Christmas village set up in the space around the city’s official tree. They even set up the city’s official Hanukkah menorah right by.

It has become a festive city tradition, and one that makes the Picasso statue also located in the Daley Plaza seem so naked the rest of the year with nothing but the pigeons surrounding it.

But that will be no more beginning with this holiday season. For city officials announced this week that when they erect the city’s official tree on Nov. 24, it will be in Millennium Park.

NOT AMONGST THE political people. But at a location where they hope it will attract even more public attention. Technically, it will now have a Michigan Avenue address; rather than a Clark Street one.

Will the city menorah move with the tree?
Although since it will now be near the Maggie Daley Park, one could argue that the city will still use the Daley name as the location for official city holiday celebrations.

There also is the fact that the city has an ice rink nearby, and there will be the vision of people being able to skate and slip on the ice before checking out a giant, 55-foot-tall tree (usually a spruce or a fir).

The kind of Christmas holiday celebration that could wind up appearing on postcards that bear the official symbol of city recognition.

UNLIKE THE PAST celebrations which had an ice rink one block to the east back in the day when Block 37 was vacant and officials set up a temporary ice rink each winter so as to make the downtown location seem just a little less decrepit than it had become.

So what should we think of this shift? It is going to take some getting used to, although I suppose there is a younger generation that will think nothing of this move.

There even is a sense of history returning, as there once was a time when the official holiday tree was set up in Grant Park – dating back to the first city tree in 1913.

But for me, the occasions when I walk through Daley Plaza come December are going to seem a bit strange. The plaza in December without having to work one’s way through a maze caused by the Christmas village AND the holiday tree will seem deserted.


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