The Christmas Ship, loaded with Christmas trees for Chicago’s deserving families, will arrive at Navy Pier in Chicago, Illinois, on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, at 8 a.m. The Christmas Ship is a Chicago tradition dating back to the early 1900s.
The ship will arrive at Navy Pier on Friday morning. There will be an opening ceremony and tree off-loading at Navy Pier starting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012. The festivities at Navy Pier on Saturday will also include the arrival of Santa Claus and the opening of the annual Winter Wonderfest celebration.
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In the early 1900s, lake schooners loaded up with Christmas trees from Michigan and Wisconsin and sailed them down to Chicago where families would board the ship and select a tree. On Nov., 22, 1912, the Rouse Simmons, one of the original “Christmas Tree Ships,” sailed from Thompson, Mich. carrying nearly 5,000 trees bound for Chicago. One observer described it as a “floating forest.” Sadly, the ship encountered a snowstorm and sank to the bottom of Lake Michigan.
In tribute to the Rouse Simmons, Chicago’s boating community, led by Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee, has established an annual reenactment of the Christmas Tree Ship. This modern day celebration of Christmas spirit also embraces the spirit of giving by delivering all of Christmas trees to needy families in Chicagoland. These days, the Christmas Tree Ship is portrayed by the US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. The trees are off-loaded from the Mackinaw by local youth volunteers and distributed to more than a thousand deserving families throughout Chicago.
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Rouse Simmons. The Mackinaw will arrive at Navy Pier loaded with trees on Nov., 30, and the opening ceremony and tree off-loading will take place on Dec., 1 at 10 a.m.
A Centennial Celebration is being held at the Chicago History Museum on Nov. 30, 2012. Guests are invited to the Chicago History Museum to view artifacts from the Rouse Simmons, meet authors and experts who have studied and written about this time honored tradition, and see photos never before on display. This event is free and open to the public. To register for the celebration, visit ChristmasShip.org.
Ornaments are being collected at Harry Caray’s Restaurant in honor the 100th anniversary. Chicago’s Christmas Ship Committee, in partnership with Harry Caray’s Restaurant Group, is collecting ornaments to decorate the trees. Anyone wishing to donate an ornament can drop it off at Harry Caray’s Tavern on Navy Pier or at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse in River North, Lombard or Rosemont between now and Nov., 30.
Harry Caray’s Navy Pier will also be commemorating the anniversary with display of original 1912 Chicago newspapers detailing the story of the Christmas tree ship tradition and the sinking of the Rouse Simmons. Guests attending the Opening Ceremony on December 1 at Navy Pier are invited to stop in at Harry’s to view the newspapers.
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