While the first of December might bring shorter days, Philly fights through the extended night by turning its lights up even brighter. From the windows at Macy’s to Rittenhouse Square and the “Miracle on 13th Street,” the city becomes a Winter Wonderland. That’s why we’re so excited for tonight when we launch the first Holiday Light Tour as one of our holiday tours in Philadelphia.
We’ve decorated our BYOB trolley for Christmas and are handing the keys over to local Philly musicians, who will perform live as they shuttle our guests around to some of the city’s best seasonal attractions. After a successful tourist season where we saw our business grow leaps and bounds in just its’ second year, we get to sit back and let the city shine. And with the new year fast approaching, it gives us a chance to reflect. Which is why this week’s blog is on our new tour, a #PhillyPhirst…at least in the City of Brotherly Love.
Growing up in a family of six, my parents worked hard to provide for us. We certainly had everything we needed, but we weren’t spoiled either. Except at Christmas time! The holiday season is where my mom shined. We had more family traditions centered around Christmas then everything else combined. As I started a family of my own, I’ve held onto all of them and without realizing it, with each tradition a piece of Philadelphia was added in.
Growing up, we couldn’t wait for the calendar to turn to December when my mom would unveil that year’s advent calendar. It was always the same cardboard box with 24 “windows” that opened to reveal a small piece of the waxiest chocolate you’ve ever had. “Ok,” my mom would instruct, “we take turns opening the window each day. Oldest to youngest. When it’s your turn, you get the chocolate.” Each year she would explain the rules for the month and each year the calendar never made it past the first week of December.
Now, my family marks the days with gold foiled covered chocolate coins from Shane’s Confectionery. (Once you’ve had chocolate from the oldest confectionary and candy shop in America, cardboard wax chocolate won’t cut it anymore.)
Every year, I’d get dealt the task of having to get on my hands and knees to crawl through our tiny, asbestos covered crawl space to unearth our family’s ornaments and artificial tree. No matter how close to the crawl space entrance I had left it the year before, it always found it’s way to the very back, blocked by countless boxes. Once I had escaped from the cobweb and dust torture chamber, my mom would throw on Christmas music, and we would all decorate the tree together. Everyone in our family had an ornament that represented them, handmade by my mom!
Now, each year my wife and I travel to a Philly area farm and cut down our tree. Each year I get on my hands and knees on the cold, frozen ground, and try to cut through a tree trunk with a saw slightly sharper than a butter knife, all while getting whacked in the face with branches. It’s at that moment when I fondly remember the asbestos covered crawl space.
There were countless other traditions, but my favorite was the night my mom would pile us in our minivan late at night and slowly drive through our neighborhood. She’d find a radio station playing Christmas music, and we’d marvel at our neighbor’s modest displays. Now, I get to fill a trolley with people searching for the same experience.
Tonight, as our trolley makes its way for our holiday tours in Philadelphia through the decorated streets of South Philadelphia on its way to “The Miracle on 13th Street,” and as a local musician plays Christmas songs to put everyone in the holiday spirit, my face will be pressed up against the cold glass, staring out with child-like awe, reliving all of the amazing Christmas Eves and Mornings we had as a family. Now, for me, the family includes Philadelphia! See you on the trolley.