The Night Before Christmas (12-24-1985)

Christmas Eve, thirty years ago.  What was going on in Chicago?

As always, some shoppers had waited to the last moment.  Marshall Field’s, Carson’s, Ward’s, and the other State Street stores were busy.  VCRs and the new digital compact disc players were selling briskly.  The one surprising gift of the season was the telescope.


Halley’s Comet was coming back for the first time in 76 years.  Binoculars could be used to examine the heavenly marvel, but why not get something special for that special someone?  So now telescope manufacturers were running triple shifts—and still couldn’t keep up with the demand.  Comet junkies were shelling out as much as $2,500 for a high-end model.

Out in Lincolnwood, they were getting ready for heavy traffic.  The homes there were known for elaborate Christmas displays.  Most had gone dark during the hard times of the Carter years.  But now the economy was roaring, Lincolnwood was again bright, and all the thousands of drive-by gapers were returning.

Many Chicagoans were going to midnight religious services.  Those who’d stay in could watch holiday movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, or four competing versions of A Christmas Carol.  Cable superstation WTBS was presenting a special called “A Trumpet of Conscience,” which featured the last Christmas sermon of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


At the Hyatt Regency last night, they’d staged the fourth annual World’s Largest Office Party.  Over 10,000 guests had paid the $5 admission, to be entertained by acts on two stages, or to buy drinks from celebrity bartenders.  All proceeds went to charity.

Chicagoans did remember that this was a holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.  And if they did not share those particular religious beliefs, they did share in the spirit of the season.

The spirit was carried forth in acts of charity.  On the South Side, 63 needy seniors received reconditioned fur coats at a free church raffle, courtesy of Mysel Furs.  In Little Village, a thousand chicken dinners were given away to poor families.  The Salvation Army again received an anonymous donation of gold coins in one of its street kettles.  This year the gift was five Canadian maple leaves, worth $1650.

Mayor Washington and Alderman Vrdolyak---at last they find something to agree on!

At last—Mayor Washington and Alderman Vrdolyak find common ground!

And this being Chicago, politics was in the news.  Mayor Harold Washington and the city council had been feuding for over two years.  But in the spirit of the season, mayor and council had come together, and found something to agree on.  They gave themselves pay raises.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!



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