Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting: A Festive Tradition in the Windy City

Chicago’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is a beloved holiday tradition that draws thousands of locals and tourists alike to Millennium Park. The event marks the official start of the holiday season in the city and features a variety of festive activities and performances.

Each year, the city selects a massive evergreen tree to serve as the centerpiece of the ceremony. The tree is typically donated by a local family and is often more than 40 feet tall. The lighting ceremony takes place in mid-November and includes a countdown to the tree lighting, as well as live music and other entertainment.

In recent years, the event has grown in popularity and now includes a variety of other holiday-themed activities in addition to the tree lighting. These may include ice skating, holiday markets, and visits with Santa Claus. The Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is a must-see event for anyone visiting the city during the holiday season.

History of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting

Chicago’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is a beloved tradition that has been celebrated for over a century. This event marks the beginning of the holiday season in the Windy City and brings joy to many families and visitors. In this section, we will explore the origins and traditions of the Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting and highlight some of the notable trees and ceremonies that have taken place over the years.

Origins and Traditions

The first official Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony took place in 1913 in Grant Park, where a 35-foot Colorado Blue Spruce was erected and lit on Christmas Eve by then-mayor Carter Harrison. This marked the beginning of a tradition that has continued to this day. The tradition of mounting the tree in Grant Park continued for more than 40 years. In 1956, for Mayor Richard J. Daley’s first tree lighting ceremony, a 70-foot blue spruce was used, which was donated by the Hubbard Woods Elementary School in Winnetka, Illinois.

The ceremony has evolved over the years, but some traditions have remained the same. For example, the tree is still typically donated by a family or organization, and the lighting ceremony is typically held on the Friday before Thanksgiving, which is also known as “Magnificent Mile Lights Festival.” The tree is usually decorated with thousands of lights and ornaments, and the event features live music, food, and entertainment.

Notable Trees and Ceremonies

Over the years, there have been several notable trees and ceremonies that have taken place at the Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting. In 2019, a 55-foot blue spruce donated by Gene Nelson of Elgin was lit during an event that was emceed by Irika Sargent and Joe Donlon of CBS 2. The event included multiple viewing locations with screens and concessions across the park and a main stage.

In 2015, the city used a 63-foot Norway Spruce, which was donated by a family in Northlake, Illinois. This tree was the largest tree ever used for the ceremony and was decorated with more than 48,000 lights and 2,000 ornaments.

In conclusion, the Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting is a cherished tradition that has brought joy to generations of families and visitors. The event has evolved over the years, but the spirit of the holiday season and the joy of gathering together to celebrate remains the same.

2024 Event Details

Location and Date

The City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is a beloved annual holiday tradition that takes place at Millennium Park, near the intersection of Michigan Ave. and Washington St. This year’s ceremony will take place on Friday, November 17, 2024, with a pre-show starting at 5 pm and the tree lighting ceremony at 6 pm. The tree will remain illuminated through January 7, 2025.

Millennium Park is easily accessible by public transportation, with several bus and train stops nearby. Visitors can take the CTA train to the Washington/Wabash or Randolph/Wabash stations, or take one of several bus routes that stop near the park. Parking is also available at several nearby garages and lots.

Performances and Main Stage Events

The Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony features a variety of performances and main stage events that are sure to get visitors in the holiday spirit. The main stage is located at the corner of Michigan Ave. and Washington St., and features live music, dance performances, and more.

In addition to the main stage events, visitors can enjoy a variety of other holiday activities throughout Millennium Park, including ice skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, shopping at the Christkindlmarket, and taking in the stunning Lightscape event at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Admission and Accessibility

The City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is free and open to the public. Visitors of all ages and abilities are welcome to attend, and the event is fully accessible for individuals with disabilities.

To ensure that everyone can enjoy the festivities, the City of Chicago provides a variety of accessibility services, including wheelchair-accessible seating, sign language interpretation, and audio description services. Visitors can request these services in advance by contacting the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

Overall, the City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony is a must-see event for anyone visiting Chicago during the holiday season. With its stunning tree lighting ceremony, live performances, and holiday activities, it’s no wonder why this event has become such a beloved holiday tradition in the city.

Holiday Activities and Attractions

Chicago is a winter wonderland during the holiday season. From ice skating to shopping, there are plenty of festive activities to enjoy. Here are some of the top holiday attractions in the city.

Millennium Park Winter Programming

Millennium Park is the epicenter of holiday activities in Chicago. The park is home to the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink, which is open from mid-November through mid-March. Skating at the rink is a classic holiday activity in Chicago and offers stunning views of the city skyline and Cloud Gate, also known as “The Bean”.

In addition to ice skating, Millennium Park hosts a variety of winter programming, including the Millennium Park Art Market and the Millennium Park Holiday Sing-Along. The art market features local artists and artisans selling unique gifts and holiday decorations. The sing-along is a free outdoor concert where visitors can join in singing classic holiday songs with a live band and choir.

Shopping and Dining Options

The Magnificent Mile is a must-visit destination for holiday shopping in Chicago. The mile-long stretch of Michigan Avenue is lined with high-end retailers, department stores, and specialty shops. The street is also home to the annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, which features a parade and lighting ceremony to kick off the holiday season.

State Street is another popular shopping destination in Chicago. The street is home to the iconic Macy’s on State and the historic Palmer House Hilton. Visitors can also enjoy the holiday decorations and window displays along the street.

Chicago is also known for its diverse dining scene, with plenty of options for holiday dining. Christkindlmarket, located in Daley Plaza, offers traditional German food and drink, as well as unique holiday gifts and decorations.

Nearby Holiday Events

ZooLights at Lincoln Park Zoo is a must-see holiday event in Chicago. The zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland with over two million lights, larger-than-life animal designs, and light shows set to holiday music.

Other nearby holiday events include the State Street Thanksgiving Parade and the Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Millennium Park. The tree lighting ceremony is a beloved Chicago tradition that features live music and a visit from Santa Claus.

Chicago is the perfect destination for a festive holiday getaway. With so many activities and attractions to choose from, visitors are sure to have a memorable holiday experience.

Visitor Information

Chicago’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony is a beloved tradition that attracts thousands of visitors each year. If you plan to attend, here are some important things to keep in mind to ensure a safe and happy holiday season.

Safety and Regulations

As with any large event, safety and security are top priorities. The Chicago Police Department will be on hand to ensure that everyone can enjoy the festivities in a safe and secure environment. Visitors are encouraged to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity to law enforcement.

In addition, the Chicago Department of Aviation reminds travelers to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity to airport personnel or law enforcement. For those flying into Midway International Airport, the airport offers convenient cell phone lots where visitors can wait for arriving passengers.

Transportation and Accommodations

Chicago is a bustling city with plenty of transportation options to get you to and from the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The CTA offers a variety of services, including the Orange Line, which provides direct service to Midway International Airport. Visitors can also visit for more information on airport services and amenities.

If you plan to stay overnight, there are plenty of accommodations available to suit every budget. The Hilton is a popular choice for visitors looking for a comfortable and convenient place to stay.

Remember to wear a mask when required and follow all local regulations and guidelines related to COVID-19. By taking these simple steps, you can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season in Chicago.