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Smelly Socks: New and old Chicago Christmas traditions

By By Anita Spisak
Nov. 29, 2012 at 5:29 a.m.




City Life

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and living in Chicago provides us with a plethora of activities to do during the holiday season. There's the Light Parade, the ice skating at Millennium Park, the dressed up windows at Macy's and Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, just to name a few.

Up until a few years ago, the boys were too young to bring downtown at the busy holiday time, so last year was the first year that we ventured down to the city for a day filled with Christmas fun. Our main goal was to see the windows at Macy's and eat at the Walnut Room, a timeless tradition for many Chicagoans.

First stop was to take the Metra train down into Union Station. Adam really wanted to take the "L," but at the time the Metra was a better fit for us. The boys were excited to take their first train ride and held on tightly to their tickets. They didn't like the sound of the train horn when it pulled into the station but liked how big it was, especially since on the Metra we can sit downstairs or upstairs. Once we got on the train they were bursting with excitement and watched as the small houses of the suburbs slowly faded into the tall building of the city.

Our first goal of the day was to go to Macy's and see the windows decorated for Christmas. As a child, Joe and his family did this almost every year, and he wants to make sure our boys have that memory as well. After oohing and aahing at the windows, we wanted to start a new tradition for our family and eat at the Walnut Room. The Walnut Room, for those of you who don't know, is a Marshall Fields tradition. Yes, I did say Marshall Fields, because that store will always be Marshall Fields to me and not Macy's, but I digress.

The Walnut Room opened in 1907 and is about 17,000 square feet with Circassian wood imported from Russia and Austrian chandeliers hung throughout. It would've been an awesome experience for the boys (and me as well). Yes, I did say "would've been."

But darn it if we got there too late. And we thought we were early by getting in line at 11 a.m. The next seating was at 2:30 p.m. Yeah, that was not going to work with two hungry little boys. So, we decided to forgo the Walnut Room this time and hope to make it there this year.

After we left Macy's, we headed down to Daley Plaza where they have Christkindlmarket, a traditional German-American market only displayed at Christmastime. They sell German cuckoo clocks, handmade ornaments, traditional German foods and sweets. Adam and Charlie loved this place as there were toys and ornaments and food everywhere and the whole thing was outside.

We got some food and ate it standing on the bustling street right outside the market. They couldn't believe we weren't sitting at tables. It was cold, but we bought cider to keep us warm.

The Christkindlmarket was the last stop for the day as we had a train to catch back home. All in all, it was a short but good first trip downtown with the boys. I'm looking forward to the day when we can spend the whole day down there without 15 trips to the bathroom, 10 constant complaints of "I'm hungry," and one nice meal at the Walnut Room.

Anita lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two boys and two dogs one of which is a girl. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at smellysocks@vicad.com.

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