Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago does an amazing Christmas tree display every year, featuring trees decorated in styles unique to many different countries around the world, from every continent save Antarctica. It’s been maybe…20 years?…since I last saw it, so I was really excited to see how it had changed. Now, my memories are pretty fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure the exhibit is much larger than it used to be, and it was a lot of fun to go through it, and see how different cultures celebrate Christmas and other winter holidays!

This doesn’t cover every tree in the display (I think maybe I have photos of about half of them), and also doesn’t cover the displays featuring holidays such as Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, because they were in glass cases that were very hard to photograph with all of the lights reflecting off of them. I did also include examples of some of the displays that were included beneath the trees, which was a very nice touch, as well as the signs that accompany them. With one exception, I included only one photo from each tree. It was impossible to keep track of which tree went with which country, so you can try to figure that out on your own!

The grand tree in the center of the exhibit was an unbelievable sight!

And a bonus picture of the Pioneer Zephyr, all decked out for the holidays!

I’m so happy I got a chance to see this display again, and even happier that I got to share it with the Fab Five…we all learned so many things about how Christmas is celebrated around the world!

Garden Landmarks at Gardenland Express

We always look forward to visiting the Gardenland Express Holiday Flower and Train Show at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and I think this year’s show was my favorite yet! I especially liked it because it contains so many garden landmarks:

The rest of the display is quite lovely, too…I really enjoyed the flocked trees!

I’m always amazed by how much attention to detail goes into this show…I can’t wait to see what they have planned for next year!

Christmas Traditions 2018

Today we made our annual trek west to St. Charles, MO, for the Christmas Traditions festival. (This is not to be confused with the trek north we made a few weeks ago to St. Charles, IL, also for Christmas-related reasons!)

The day was as beautiful as the picture looks, although it was a bit warm for our tastes. But the spring-like temperatures brought our larger crowds than we’ve ever encountered before…it was a good thing they finally decided to close Main Street to vehicular traffic, because I don’t know how all of the pedestrians would have fit on the sidewalks!

St. Charles is never more charming than it is at Christmastime:

One of the best parts of going to Christmas Traditions is seeing all of our favorite characters. We’ll call this year’s attempt a “successful failure.” We saw the number one character we wanted to see (Jack Frost), and a really cool new character (Ded Moroz), but there was no Frontier Santa this year, and we didn’t see the Master of Revels, and a number of the other characters we enjoy seeing every year. In the end, we collected 31 out of 41 numbered character cards, plus one of the bonus cards, which is really not bad!

Bunny had an especially good visit with Jack Frost, the “Bob Ross of Frost” this year. He even embellished his character card with a bit of his artwork for her!

This was a challenging visit to St. Charles for me, since I’m still wearing the CAM boot. The uneven brick streets made walking more difficult than I would care to admit, and our parking space, which was practically on the other side of the Missouri River, made our walk extra long. But I was determined to have fun today, and do the things we usually do, because I hate to miss out on anything. So, even though climbing the brick steps up to the gazebo wasn’t the easiest thing ever, I even got my annual picture of the Fab Five, and I think it might be the best one yet!

And just like that, another year’s visit to Christmas Traditions is over. Even though things were a bit different this year (we were too late to see the parade, and we missed the gingerbread houses), we had a great time! I’m already looking forward to seeing what changes they might make next year…but not as much as I’m looking forward to not having to navigate the event with a broken ankle!

Symphony Saturday

In September, Bunny and I got to go to Powell Hall to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire while the St. Louis Symphony played the score. Moose received a similar awesome birthday gift, and today he and I got to go see Home Alone on the big screen while the Symphony played.

We were really excited to see Powell Hall dressed up for Christmas:

We had plenty of time before the movie to takes pictures and have a holiday-themed drink at the Met Bar…Moose had an eggnog, and I had the special…poinsettia punch:

Our seats were great…I think we had the best spot for hearing the music!

At the beginning of the year, I had never set foot inside Powell Hall, and now I’ve been there three times…once for a tour, and twice for “Live at Powell Hall” events. This is definitely one of my new favorite places in St. Louis!

Christkindlmarkets

I was so excited when Belleville finally opened a Christmas market. For years, I had said that it would be the perfect way to honor the city’s German heritage, and add a little extra Christmas fun to the town square. And we’ve enjoyed visiting it in the five seasons it has been open.

But now I think I’ve ruined it for myself. I already mentioned that one of my top priorities when we went to Chicago was taking the Fab Five downtown to the Christkindlmarket. I was a little worried that I would be disappointed, because I thought that over the years, I had built it up in my head, and it wouldn’t be what I remembered. But it actually turned out to be so much more…more stalls, more food choices, more crowds, more everything. Sure, the rain was a downer, but the market itself was beautiful and huge and exactly what I wanted it to be.

And then we stopped at the satellite location in Naperville the next day on the way home, to make up for the rainy experience the day before. I had looked at the map ahead of time, so I should have anticipated what it would be like, but for some reason, I was expecting it to be small and disappointing after Chicago. But it wasn’t at all. Maybe not quite as big (or maybe it was!), but still plenty of options for shopping and food and photos:

And now I realize just how small Belleville’s market is. I know it can never be the same as the Chicago version, but I really thought the Naperville market would be more similar to what we’ve become used to, and it’s not. I know I’ll still visit the Belleville Christkindlmarkt every December, probably more than once, but it will never really be the same to me, after seeing just how German the markets up north are!

Markel Family Christmas Getaway–Day Three

The third day of our Christmas getaway was also the real reason we were there…to attend the Santa Breakfast at Pheasant Run. We enjoyed the decorations, a great meal, and a nice, leisurely morning together. Before we left the ballroom, we took a family picture with the host of the event:

It’s always hard to say goodby, but at least this time, it’s only six more months until we go back, instead of a whole year!

Before we really hit the road, we had one more stop to make. Since our Chicago Christkindlmarket experience didn’t exactly go as planned, we stopped at their satellite location in Naperville at the Naper Settlement. I was shocked by how big the market was, and how similar to the one in Chicago. I guess I had assumed that it would be kind of…dinky…but it wasn’t at all, and we had a great time!

Since we were already so far south, we didn’t even have to get on the tollway, which was a nice surprise. Just a few hours south on 55, and we were back home. It was definitely a quick trip, but extremely memorable! I’m already looking forward to our next family trip!

Markel Family Christmas Getaway–Day Two

Day two of our Christmas Getaway was a BIG DAY. A day I’ve been planning and hoping for for years…the day where I would show the Fab Five Christmas in Chicago!

But first, a look at the view from our 11th floor room in the tower at Pheasant Run. We’ve never had a north facing view before, and while we missed being able to see the skyscrapers in Chicago that we’ve been accustomed to (with the way the weather was in Chicago last weekend, there’s no way we would have been able to see them anyway!), it was fun to see something different. It was also nice of Chicago to hang onto the snow until we had a chance to really see it, because it was pretty much gone by the end of the day!

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Pheasant Run’s Jambalaya restaurant, compliments of the resort. It was a great meal…I especially enjoyed my eggs Benedict, a rare treat for a person like me who doesn’t usually eat breakfast!

And then we headed out. Our first stop was the Museum of Science and Industry, using the reciprocity that comes with our St. Louis Science Center membership to get in for free! We were there to see only one thing…the “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” display, something I enjoyed as a child who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. It’s much bigger than I remember it being, and we were definitely not disappointed…I think it took us over an hour to see all of the trees and other displays!

After the museum, we stopped briefly to take a look a Lake Michigan, which was wild…way wilder than the children have ever seen it, and possibly more so than I ever have! We really enjoyed watching the waves crash against the shore! It was a grander display of wind and waves than we even saw the two times we’ve visited the ocean!

We then headed into the heart of downtown, a harrowing experience that involved a crowded parking garage with narrow spiral ramps that terrify me, and no spaces available until we hit the 10th floor. I can’t tell you how glad I was that Ryan was driving! Despite my terror, it was a good place to park, and fairly close to everything I hoped to see. It was only a short few blocks’ walk to Millennium Park, where we saw the city Christmas tree:

And the “Bean.” Since Ryan hasn’t had the opportunity to see it with us the last few years we’ve visited the city in May, I made sure to get a picture of him with the children in front of it:

Of course I had to show the children the Art Institute lions with their wreath manes:

The number one thing I wanted to share with the children was the Chicago Christkindlmarket. I have happy memories of going downtown with Ryan when we were in college and having lunch and shopping at the stalls, and I really wanted the Fab Five to have that experience, too. It was so rainy and windy when we were there, though, that we didn’t spend much time at the market. We had a snack (not a full meal), and didn’t get to do any browsing. I didn’t even get a picture of the children there, although I did get a few shots of the market:

We then went to Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory, where I wanted the children to see the Christmas decorations, especially the tree in the Walnut Room. And that’s when the second disappointment of the day occurred, because I discovered that apparently, you can no longer go up to the eighth floor and view the Walnut Room and its tree from above. I was not happy about that, but we did still buy a tin of Frango mints, so it wasn’t a wasted trip. And by the time we had purchased our treat to take home, the rain had stopped, so we could admire the Christmas windows outside:

After we finally made it back to the car (the garage was right across from Macy’s, but I was over using my knee scooter, especially with all the standing water that had collected everywhere, so I wasn’t moving too fast), we drove over to the Adler Planetarium so the Fab Five could see the city at night. Due to the weather, they really only saw the lower third of the city, but at least they got an idea of what Chicago’s night skyline looks like:

We decided to take the long way back to the resort, so we got on North Avenue basically where it begins in the city, and drove…and drove…and drove some more. There was traffic and construction and too many potholes to count. But it was still kind of fun (other than the potholes), and we stopped for a favorite treat from our college days on the way…Italian ice from Johnnie’s. This was a first for the Fab Five, and they really enjoyed it.

When we got back to Pheasant Run, we headed back down to Bourbon Street to see the light show again…this time, we caught it in its entirety, and then saw it again!

When we got back to our room, we indulged in one of favorite hotel activities…watching the Food Network on cable TV. It was hard to believe our second night at the hotel was also our last, but we still had a day of fun to look forward to on Sunday!

Markel Family Christmas Getaway–Day One

It’s time for another Markel family road-trip wrap-up, this time featuring last weekend’s Christmas getaway to Pheasant Run Resort!

This trip was a little different, because we didn’t leave super early in the morning on Friday. Instead, Moose went to school for his first three classes, and we hit the road around lunchtime. It actually wasn’t a bad drive…very little construction, and no traffic to speak of until we hit the Chicagoland area. The only real hiccup in our travels was the fact that when we arrived at Pheasant Run, their computers were down, and we couldn’t check in to our room. We had planned to go to dinner at the Schnitzel Platz with my mom, so we decided to wait on checking in, and headed straight for a delicious meal of German food. We tried a few new things this time (I had schnitzel with white asparagus and hollandaise sauce, and Turkey’s schnitzel came with a fried egg and canap├ęs), and we heard a new musician, who played the accordion and the saxophone. We even got to hear “O Tannenbaum” sung auf Deutsch!

After dinner, the computers at the hotel were back up, and we were able to get into our room.

We took a walk around the resort, as we usually do the first day we arrive. This time we had a very specific purpose…we wanted to see the hotel at Christmastime! You can swim in the outdoor portion of the indoor/outdoor pool even when there’s snow on the ground (as there was when we arrived). I would have tried this had it not been for my broken ankle. Instead, I had to settle for watching the steam rise off of the heated water:

We then checked out the Christmas lights show on Bourbon Street…it was a lot of fun!

Next up: a busy day in Chicago!

Eight Maids-a-Milking

This is the first non-bird ornament in our Hallmark 12 Days of Christmas ornament collection…even “Five Golden Rings” featured a bird! I’m not really sure what to do with this abrupt change in styling, but I assume after the ladies dancing, lords-a-leaping, pipers piping, and drummers drumming join her on the tree, I’ll be used to it!