Saturdays Are Fun: Where I Live Holiday Edition

Happy Christmas Eve! Today we have a second Where I Live - this time a Holiday Edition featuring our creative team member Heather aka sparklyduck! She lives in Cleveland, OH, where I actually was born, and where my parents and extended family still live! Let’s take a look at Heather’s interview. It gives me warm giggly feelings for Cleveland all-over again!

Where I Live Holiday Edition Featuring Heather aka sparklyduck

What is the name of where you live, and where is it located?
I live in Cleveland, Ohio, in the heart of Midwest USA, right on the Great Lake Erie.

Cleveland Ohio aerial view



Tower City District, Cleveland By Christina Spicuzza


Did anything interesting happen here in history? Are there any interesting stories or events that took place here historically? What is where you live best known for?
The first thing that comes to mind is that Eliot Ness–who famously nailed Al Capone in Chicago–later became Safety Director of Cleveland and eventually made a mayoral bid here. Superman was created in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joel Shuster (of COURSE Superman is a Clevelander!!). Alan Freed, a Cleveland radio deejay, coined the term “rock ‘n’ roll” and hosted the first rock concert ever, here in 1952. In 1967, our Carl Stokes became the first African-American mayor of a major city. We were the first city to be awarded five All-American City Awards. Lots of celebrities hail from the Cleveland area, including Halle Berry, Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Langston Hughes, President James Garfield, Bob Hope, Toni Morrison, Henry Mancini, John D. Rockefeller, and on and on.

Plenty of movies have been filmed here, including Shawshank Redemption, Men in Black, and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but none more famously than A Christmas Story (remember Ralphie and his Red Rider BB gun?). The family home in A Christmas Story has been converted to museum for the film. The decor is exactly as it was in the movie, and is loaded with memorabilia, including the famous Leg Lamp in the front window… how fun. We have world-class arts and entertainment here, including our Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Art and Playhouse Square Center (the second largest theatre complex in the country behind the Kennedy Center); the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame; and the massive, world-renowned Cleveland Clinic.

Despite all the great things that continue to come out of Cleveland (and I’ve really been modest reciting our virtues!), Cleveland is actually better known for its misfortunes, like the collapse of our steel industry; the Cuyahoga River catching fire in the 60s from pollution (although some local artists have even embraced this of late–you can now by t-shirts emblazoned with a Burning River Surf Club logo); the relentless short-comings of our sports teams, recently dubbed “a factory of sadness”; and our astonishingly bad public school system have earned us the nickname of Mistake on the Lake, something we all hate but can’t seem to shirk.

And I won’t even mention LeBron James.

A Christmas Story House & Museum, located in Cleveland, Ohio's Tremont neighborhood


What are the main Christmas dates in your country? (December 25, January 1, January 6, other)
December 24-25 are the main dates for Christmas here, and December 31 is a big party day for New Year’s Eve.


What does your city/town offer for the residents for the holidays? (Santa appearances, tree lighting, merchant open houses, kid activities)
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, the shops in our Tower City mall on Public Square (converted from our iconic train station) host music performances, train rides, Winter Wonderland for children, and tons of other holiday activities leading up to the main event: after sundown, there’s a concert outside on the Square, where Santa appears marking the official start of the Christmas season. Then he shoots light rays out of his mittens and the whole Square comes alive with twinkling lights from stem to stern, finally lighting up the big Christmas tree in the center.

You can experience the downtown lights on foot, or by horse and carriage, or Lolly the Trolly gives tours of the most dazzlingly decorated areas near downtown. Further out, you can take a pajama-clad train trip on the Polar Express, complete with dancers performing songs from the movie and serving hot cocoa, and a visit from Santa reading the classic story. The University Circle area which is home to most of our museums has Holiday CircleFest, where local school children and art students participate in a parade of handmade lanterns (gorgeous!), all the museums and local shops put on their holiday best, and you can finish your evening ice skating at Wade Oval.


From ice skating in University Circle, to the Zoo, Metroparks and Progressive Field, there are plenty of ways to get outside and fight cabin fever this holiday season. Photo from Clue Into

Our Great Lakes Theatre Festival does an awesome stage production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol which is an absolute must-see. The Cleveland Playhouse does live shows of A Christmas Story, and recently, a one-man show of It’s a Wonderful Life. The Cleveland Orchestra offers a breathtaking Christmas concert (I’m not kidding–I almost yelped, I was so caught away!), and also the spectacular Handel’s Messiah. Then there’s a list as long as my arm of smaller productions in community theatres, churches, and art houses, celebrity tours, numerous lighting displays, neighborhood tours and open houses, and Santa appears in every incarnation imaginable. Whether you prefer something secular or something religious, there’s PLENTY of stuff to do in Cleveland at Christmas time! I’ve been here my whole life and haven’t even begun to experience it all.


Tell us about anything that you think is special or different in your country or region at Christmas time?
America is special at Christmas time–any any other time of year–because of our great diversity, and that is certainly true of Cleveland. Ohio is often called the heart of the Midwest, and every political season, the commentators talk about how Ohio and Cleveland are a cross-section of everything happening in the entire country at any given moment. Every faith, every race, every lifestyle, every economic class and political persuasion is represented here. We’re enough of a big city to have excitement and culture and great energy, but near enough to our rural roots to have practical charm and friendly people. This is never more pronounced than at Christmas time, when our already-friendly city rolls out its carpet of warmth and good will.


What is the weather like in your town at Christmas?
COLD! Last year Forbes named Cleveland its #1 Worst Winter Weather City, which surprises me, because I thought it was kind of lovely (my husband said that’s because I didn’t do the shoveling). This year our average temperature going into Christmas season is expected to be about 31 degrees (F) with plenty of lake snow. One of my favorite things about this area is that we have four distinct seasons… and while I wouldn’t complain if winter were a little shorter, I couldn’t stand myself if we didn’t have snow at Christmas time.


Cleveland: America's Worst Winter City according to Forbes

Average Annual Temperature: 49.6°F

Average Precipitation: 38.7 inches

Average Snowfall: 58.9 inches


Do you decorate your home for the holidays? The best description of your home is:
Tiny. Teeny weeny tiny. We live in a small rental home right now, and if we have more than a couple guests at a time, it gets hard to move. So we don’t do a lot of entertaining, but we have a great time anyway. I’ve always been a giant Christmas head, and my daughter is blissfully of the same mind. All my husband asks is that we wait till after Thanksgiving to decorate, but that often means we come home from Thanksgiving dinner with our family and I have boxes of decorations in the hallway, ready to go. My parents are usually in town for Thanksgiving, so sometimes I wait till everyone goes to bed and decorate my brains out while they sleep (because they all tend to get Grinchy about the actual doing of it, but once it’s done, they love it). But now I have this little Sugar Plum Fairy who wants to help, too, and that is its own fun.


I share my home with:
My husband of nine years, Don, and our daughter Grace, who is almost 4 and on the cusp of world domination.


My favorite no cost/free thing to do for the holidays where I live is:
Cleveland has a number of free holiday events, but these are my two favorites:

The Cleveland Playhouse hosts a Festival of Trees every year, where local businesses sponsor and decorate a few hundred theme trees that line the halls of the theatre complex. Last year, my daughter’s favorite tree was completely constructed of pink feathers with baby angels all over. Some of my favorites have been the tree decorated with classic children’s books and characters, one covered in framed portraits of historic women, and an Amelia Earhart tree with a biplane zooming up right out of the center. Definitely magical, and creatively stimulating.


Playhouse Square Festival of Trees By debrakar

Then downtown right in the center of Public Square is the Old Stone Church, which has been there for over a hundred years and sits in pleasant contrast to the glossy high-rise buildings that rose up around it over the years. Every Christmas, they hold a free concert where their masterful chamber choir performs a selection of exquisite carols and hymns. I love this event, because it helps bring us back to a quiet, spiritual place of peace in the middle of all the holiday commotion, to meditate on the Centerpiece of our celebration.


What do you usually do on New Year’s Eve? Anything customs in your area of the country/world on this day?
America loves to party for New Year’s Eve. Everyone gathers to watch the ball drop on Times Square in New York City, and everyone makes resolutions to be better human beings in the coming year. They say if you don’t kiss someone at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, you’ll have bad luck all year.

We usually gather at my uncle’s house for food and games, and as midnight approaches, my cousin serenades us with Auld Lang Syne on his saxophone. Partying that late is tricky with a 3 year-old, so we usually cut out early, and I frankly enjoy not having to clean up that particular mess… don’t tell! But New Year’s comes between two big days at our house–Christmas and Grace’s birthday on January 3rd–so we stay pretty low-key.


What special things are you doing this year for the holidays?
My parents pastor a church in Michigan, and with Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year, they can’t come to Cleveland to celebrate. So we’re going up there for the weekend, which will be great. Most of my family has moved to Michigan in the last several years, so it will be great to celebrate with all of them. After dinner on Christmas Eve, we always read the Nativity story from the Bible together, and say a prayer before distributing gifts. We open all our presents on Christmas Eve--we started that when I was a kid, because my night-owl father and I heartily agreed it would be better to sleep in the next day! On Christmas Day this year, my husband will be participating in a stage play at church, that my dad wrote, called “Joseph”, about the Biblical Joseph’s coming to grips with his responsibilities raising the Son of God. After church, we’ll have another smaller dinner and receive communion together. Then Grace can open her stocking, and we’ll enjoy the day playing games, building snowmen if the weather permits, and just having a keen time. I can’t wait!


One last thing I want you to know about where I live is:
Cleveland has had some hard knocks, but it is such a culturally rich city with great spirit, that never stays down for long. Ignore what you may read about the “Mistake on the Lake”–Cleveland, to me, is a city on the rise, with a lot to be proud of, and ripe with endless opportunity. I LOVE this place!


Cleveland's Ballpark turned winter adventure playground via

Thanks so much Heather for sharing your enthusiasm and love for Cleveland!

Julie Ann Shahin is a New York-based art journaler, scrapbooker, mixed media craftster who specializes in hybrid and altered art techniques. She blogs for on {Wednesdays: Art Journaling 101 – new day} and Saturdays. You may contact Julie Ann directly at julieann dot shahin at gmail dot com

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