5 Very Pennsylvanian Holiday Ideas

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This was me packing for Christmas vacation last year, ugly sweaters and XC skis, and yes I did use an Instagram filter to make this more nostalgic than the lighting in my bedroom allows.
This was me packing for Christmas vacation last year, ugly sweaters and XC skis, and yes I did use an Instagram filter to make this more nostalgic than the lighting in my bedroom allows.

Even though I’ve been rocking out to Christmas Pandora since the day after Halloween, the passing of Thanksgiving now means that the rest of you can jump on the holiday bandwagon. I unapologetically love the holiday season  and every year look forward to the events building up to Christmas and New Years. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) my December looks like it’s almost completely filled up with barcrawls, holiday parties and hopefully a lot of ugly sweaters.

I only say unfortunately because December is never kind to my liver, bank account or waistline.

I’m sure I’m saying this because to me Pennsylvania (NEPA, specifically) is home, but I could never imagine celebrating the bulk of my holiday elsewhere.  There’s just so much here that reminds me of Christmas, so I decided to put together a list of 5 very Pennsylvanian things for you to do this holiday season.

Disclaimer: I know that disdain for the capitalization of Christmas and it’s rampant consumerism is a popular topic. While I agree up to a point (Black Friday is the epitome of grossness), one of my favorite parts of the holiday season is unapologetic indulgence and this list will be reflecting that. Don’t expect to see Nativity scenes, old fashioned Victorian caroling or quiet reflection. This is a Christmas list of excess. I’m not sorry.

1) Go to Troegs Brewery for Some Mad Elf Ale:


I’ve yet to make it to Troeg’s brewery and tasting room in Hershey which is pretty weak considering it’s only about forty minutes away from me. I’m also not part of the Mad Elf cult, not because I don’t like it, but because for me the holiday season is not a race, but a slow and steady marathon which is helped out by the softer buzz that comes with some Coors Light. Mad Elf, Troegs’s seasonal holiday brew, is a whopping 11% ABV. One bottle and you’re good to go. I say cult, because I know plenty of people who get worked up into a frenzy waiting for Troegs to put out this beer every year.

Take a Saturday afternoon (or weekday, they’re even opened on Christmas Eve) and head out to try some Mad Elf straight from the source. Click here for a schedule of their guided tours.

2) Running of the Santas:

Running of the Santas is an all day city-wide barcrawl happening in Philadelphia on December 7th. I’ve been in the city while the crawl has been going on but never attended one before, so am excited to let you know that I’ve had my ticket and Santa suit ordered for a couple of weeks now.

The most important part of Running of the Santas is showing up in your best North Pole costume. I’ve secured myself a pretty legit velvet one from Ebay, but you don’t necessarily have to go full on Santa. Enough people just wear red and green and my sister has been threatening to go as a slutty candycane, so that might happen.

The premise is that there’s a “southpole” and “northpole” outdoor party areas set up in Philly as well as a number of bars who are running specials throughout the day. At 4, the “southpole” shuts down and the Santas run to the Northpole (hence the name) where the party goes until “the beer runs” out and the crowd is entertained by a slew of Philly bands, including Go Go Gadget who I always enjoy seeing in Sea Isle during the summer.

3) Philadelphia Mummer’s Day Parade:


This is technically a New Year’s day activity, but that falls under the holiday umbrage and this is such a Pennsylvanian tradition, that I’ve decided to include it. If you don’t know what a Mummer is, google image that. I don’t think I justifiably describe it with words. I’ve never been, mainly because my New Years are spent in NEPA, but my Facebook feed is always overrun by pictures of mummers in what appears to be a pretty liquor soaked good time.

4) Take a “Christmas Mass” at the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh:

Church Brew Works
If mass were like this, I’d probably be less of a Chreaster-Catholic.

My favorite Christmas tradition is Christmas Eve Day. My family doesn’t eat till late and we go to Christmas Eve Mass even later, usually around 10. So a group of my friends and I spend the day leading up to everyone’s various dinners at our favorite bar. We usually go around noon, grab some lunch and then stay till four when the bar closes for the night. I’m not sure why, maybe just because the air is rife with Christmas cheer, but it’s always a blast. Everyone’s in a good mood, there’s free platters of appetizers set out and we jam out to some Christmas tunes. My friends and I have already started texting about how it’s getting close.

Now, since a lot of people frown at going to mass with a healthy buzz  (not in NEPA of course, where this might be the norm) you can recreate this scenario by taking a trip to the Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh which is housed in an old Roman Catholic Church.

5) Take a bus trip to NYC:

I know that New York is the self-proclaimed “greatest city in the world” and is arguably one of the most influential and culturally important cities in the US, but I usually don’t love it. I find it way too big, way too overwhelming, and I think it smells like piss. That being said, there’s no substitute for Christmas in New York. I haven’t been in sometime, but growing up we went to NY almost every December for shopping, possibly seeing a show and walking around to enjoy the general holiday ambiance the city exudes. I realize that technically this isn’t in Pennsylvania, but we are so close to NY. It’s easy and relatively cheap to take a bus or train trip in for just the day.

**Honorable mentions to go The Wilkes Barre Scranton Airport (fly somewhere!) because that’s where Kevin’s mom meets the polka band in Home Alone (one of my all time favorite holiday films) and Indianna, PA for being the home of the Jimmy Stewart Museum.

What’s more Christmasy then It’s a Wonderful Life? The answer is nothing.

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