Chicago’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony will be virtual affair this year

Due to the pandemic, the public will not be allowed to attend the event, a holiday tradition that attracts thousands of spectators to Millennium Park.

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Snow is unlikely as temperatures are expected to hover around the 50s leading up to and on Christmas Day in Chicago.

Chicago’s official Christmas tree will be located in Millennium Park once again, but this year’s official lighting ceremony will be closed to the public due to the pandemic.

Courtesy DCASE

Chicago will have an official Christmas tree this year for fans to enjoy, but the annual lighting ceremony will be off-limits to the public.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on mass gatherings, the lighting ceremony will for the first time be a virtual event, according to plans announced Friday by the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). “Visitors” can “attend” the virtual event via a 30-minute “Millennium Park at Home: Chicago Holidays” program starting at 6:30 p.m. Nov 19 on the DCASE YouTube channel.

Starting Nov 20, groups of 10 persons or fewer who practice social distancing and wear masks can visit the tree, located near the intersection of Michigan and Washington, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Jan. 7, 2021. This year’s tree is a 45-foot blue spruce donated by the family of Catherine Townsend of Morgan Park. There will be a specific entrance/exit to the park; details can be found at

“Despite the historic challenges presented throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been unceasing in finding workable solutions at every turn that support our families, protect our communities, and unite us during this unprecedented moment,” said mayor Lori Lightfoot in a statement.

There will be no skating at the Millennium Park ice rink this season, but skating will be available at the ribbon in Maggie Daley Park beginning Nov. 20. Reservations will be required and can be made up to two weeks in advance at Masks are mandatory for skaters.

Other holiday events in the city include Art on theMART projections, which will resume Nov. 12 on the riverside facade of the Merchandise Mart (between LaSalle and Wells). The all-new program, beginning at 7 p.m. nightly through Dec. 30, includes the debut of a Joffrey Ballet moving-image work featuring images from the company’s production of “The Nutcracker,” and images from “Monet and Chicago” and “Bisa Butler: Portraits,” two exhibits currently on view at the Art Institute.

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