Holiday Stories & Traditions in Southwestern Pennsylvania
Writer and historian Chuck Lanigan leads an exploration of holiday stories, traditions and rituals across cultures. Immigrants past and present brought these to Southwestern Pennsylvania, where they flourish among the region’s three rivers. Did you know:
- Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to Britain in the 1840s during the reign of Queen Victoria
- Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was inspired by the author’s visit to Pittsburgh’s Western Penitentiary during his 1842 American tour.
- Political cartoonist Thomas Nast created the American image of Santa Claus in the 1860s
Whether you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah, Chinese New Year, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year) or Festivus for the rest of us, celebrations around the winter solstice abound. Many, like the Ukrainian Sviaty Vechirhave and the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes involve meals. In the 20th and 21st centuries, films such as A Wonderful Life, television shows such as A Charlie Brown’s Christmas and songs like White Christmas have become shared holiday connections. In response to increased social mobility, blended families and other changes, many people have developed their own unique rituals and ways of celebrating.
Chuck will cover little-known facts and old favorites: from the Jewish celebration of Chanukah, commemorating the lamps that burned for eight days, to the story of the Nativity and Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. He will invite the audience to share their own holiday stories, and the creative ways they have honored the past while affirming the present in their celebrations.