Christmas in Minnesota

Holiday lights in South St. Paul
Location:
Minnesota, in the icy northern central USA
Temp: 23°F in Minneapolis as I write, and the 25th has a projected low of 19°F
Snow: Lots of it!
Percentage of population who celebrates Christmas: 64.2 percent here are Christian “adherents
Are you there right now: Yes.

All’s quiet on the northern front. What I love about Minneapolis at Christmastime is that we almost always have fluffy blankets of falling snow, which creates a sound barrier and makes the whole city seem blissfully peaceful. Still, there’s lots to do, from munching on doughy, cinnamon and sugar frosted puppy dog tails at Isles Bun & Coffee (trust me) to watching Dickens performed in Star Trek-speak.Even if all the crazy Scandinavian and German foods and traditions are Greek to you, you’ll love the way homes all over the city and suburbs really get into the fantastical holiday light decor. Like in other states, driving through the residential areas of the city to look at the dazzling holiday light displays is a common family ritual. Minneapolitans even take it a step further and throw a yearly, nightly Holidazzle Parade, which locals and children watch from the warm skyways (enclosed bridges which connect a large number of buildings in the downtown area; they’re like all-window hallways) and a heated tent, supplied with hot cider and cocoa, every Thursday through Sunday (this year’s parades ended December 20).

Families line up for hours at the Minneapolis Macy’s on Nicollet Mall to see the yearly SantaLand, a tradition which is almost 50 years old. Once you enter, you wind through animatronic elves and North Pole-esque wonders and eventually arrive at Santa himself for that “will my kid cry or ask for a present” confrontation (through December 30). A newer yearly tradition at the trendy bowling-alley-restaurant-theater, Bryant Lake Bowl, is a performance of David Sedaris’ SantaLand Diaries by Theater Limina (final performance December 21), a merciless account of working as a Macy’s elf, strangely heartwarming in its cynicism, and perfect for the dark-humored Nords of Minnesota. It typically sells out.

If you’re into holiday theater, a show which every Minnesotan must see once is The Guthrie Theater’s annual A Christmas Carol. It changes a little every year with new adaptations and actors, so there’s always something new to see. What is constant is the beauty and authority with which the classic tale is presented, with enough Dickens for true fans and enough wonder for the whole family (through December 31). Folks travel from far and wide to catch it — and now, many are traveling over the rivers and through the snow for a newer tradition: A Klingon Christmas Carol, presented almost entirely in Klingon by the translation-focused company Commedia Beauregard, with a single English-speaking Vulcan narrator (who happened to be my best friend this year through December 13, clip here). Over in St. Paul, Ballet Minnesota’s annual Nutcracker Ballet plays through December 20 at the O’Shaughnessy. Minnesotans never want for live performances. They say it’s because it’s so cold in the winter; all the indoor entertainment industries thrive.

For Scandinavians, the place to be is The Swedish Institute of America, where they have A Nordic Christmas (through January 10). Insider tip: The SIA’s gift shop always stocked with hard-to-find imported gifts and candies. It’s a Minnesota Christmas goldmine.

Lastly, if you’d prefer liquor over lutefisk and lefse, head to The Chambers Hotel, where they have an Ice Bar (that’s me there with my friend Tim in 2007 — it’s not glass, it’s all ice!). It won’t be open on Christmas Day, so if you’re looking for some literal holiday drinking, head to Gameworks for beer, cocktails and gaming, The Saloon, which is one of the Twin Cities’ most fabulous gay bars, Market BBQ for raucous karaoke or Park Tavern for bowling.
Chambers Hotel
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you!