The holiday season in Pittsburgh begins with a bang — a lot of bangs to be accurate.
I’m not sure what it is about this town and its pyromania, but I have witnessed more fireworks in the last 10 months than in my entire life before our move. Light Up Night, which ushers in the Christmas season the Friday before Thanksgiving, had no less than three separate fireworks displays in one night (and none of them short, either). I truly think the last one, set off from the Warhol Bridge, lasted 30 minutes or more. Downtown Pittsburgh is filled with a series of tree lightings, free carriage rides, concerts and activities for all ages during this kick-off festival. Half a million people attended the event this year.
The Market Square is converted into an open-air “German Christkindlmarkts” (Christmas Market). The vendors operate out of miniature alpine-style chalets, selling a mix of traditional gifts like hand-painted ornaments, hand-carved sculptures, nutcrackers and pottery, all with an old European flair. You’ll also find fair trade artisans crafting jewelry, ceramics and wall hangings. Shop up an appetite? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of food in the Market, too. The Yule Haus serves up homemade frankfurters, brats, soups, crepes and strudel, all washed down with a generous mug of hot cider or cocoa.
The downtown also has some more modern new world traditions right out of classic Christmas movies, like Miracle on 34th Street. One of the highlights of Light Up Night is the unveiling of the windows at Pittsburgh’s Macy’s Department Store — yes, Macy’s. I know we don’t see them much anymore but Pittsburgh has a Macy’s right downtown, not attached to a shopping mall. The retail giant spends a lot of time and money to create a displays in their large windows. The holiday scenes not only entice shoppers to come in, but have also become an attraction all by themselves, putting every passerby in the spirit of the season.
How is your town celebrating the season? Do you have any unique local traditions?