Christmas in Chicago: The Countdown Begins …

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With so much going on around town, Christmas in Chicago begins well before December 25. There are all kinds of events leading up to the big day–so many that you risk getting burned out on the holiday before Santa even makes his rounds. Don’t let that happen. Instead, pick events that you and your friends, family, or significant other will truly enjoy. After all, this is a magical time of year, and with ugly sweater parties, fancy tea services, and brunch with Santa, you’re bound to find enough spirit to carry you through to Christmas and beyond. Here are our top holiday picks for the next few days.

Christmas Spirits

From now throughout the holidays, every day is tasting day at both locations of Lush Wine & Spirits (1412 W. Chicago Ave. or 2232 W. Roscoe St.). That means you can sample choice selections of spirits, wine, and craft beer, and learn everything there is to know from experts. A number of premium bottles will be 20 percent off, so you might want to grab a few to use as stocking stuffers, hostess gifts, or gifts for yourself.

Sweat It Out

Don’t roll your eyes at the thought of yet another ugly Christmas sweater party. The two happening Saturday, Dec. 20 at theWit Hotel Chicago (201 N. State St.) promise to be more glam than goofy. Early revelers should head first to State and Lake Chicago Tavern at 4pm to help tap Revolution Brewery’s Fistmas ale while wearing the colorful attire. The Chicago-based brewery’s seasonal suds will be offered for $8 a cup, $14 for a mug and $40 per growler. And it’s only a short elevator ride away to the 27th floor’s ROOF on theWit to partake in the activities surrounding the third-annual ugly sweater party. Beginning at 9pm, a DJ spins contemporary tunes and table reservations will be available if you’re rolling deep with pals.

Time for Tea

If you fancy yourself spending the afternoon in a more civilized fashion, make your way to Allis on the lobby level of Soho House Chicago (113 N. Green St.). That’s where a sexy, artsy crowd congregates for high tea every day 3-5pm. It’s $18 for one person ($34 for two) and includes sweet and savory bites such as miniature ham and salmon sandwiches, macaroons and scones.

Venue Variety

If you cannot make up your mind where you should go to celebrate the season, hop aboard the first-ever Fireball Santa Crawl, taking place at a number of hot River North spots. It kicks off at 10am Saturday, Dec. 20 with a hearty breakfast buffet, then participants will get to take advantage of drink specials at each location. Included on the crawl are Bar Louie, Black Finn, Boss Bar, and El Hefe. Of course there will be Fireball shot specials along the route. Tickets for the event are available right here.

Have a Seat

You’re never too old to sit on Santa’s lap. At least that’s what they think at John Barleycorn River North (149 W. Kinzie St.), which hosts a brunch with Santa 10:30am-12:30pm Sunday, Dec. 21. Nosh on French toast and omelets, and then climb into a massive Christmas chair to take a photo as you sit on the big guy’s lap. John Barleycorn’s setting the scene nicely by transforming the venue into a winter wonderland that will also have A Christmas Story playing on all of the televisions.

Fish Fest

Indulge in the southern Italian tradition of Feast of the Seven Fishes a few days early at Cafe Spiaggia (980 N. Michigan Ave.). The sensational Italian eatery hosts a family-style dinner at 6pm Sunday, Dec. 21 with a number of seafood-focused dishes. It’s $75 per person, with optional wine pairings for an additional $25 per person.

Musical Magic

The 17th-annual Jingle Bell Jam happens Monday, Dec. 22 at 1st Ward/Chop Shop (2033 W. North Ave.). It’s the time of year when more than 30 local musicians–from all genres–join forces to perform together onstage until 2am. The hosts encourage attendees to bring a new unwrapped toy or make a $10 donation at the door. Toys will be donated to Brad’s Kids Foundation, which benefits children at Mt. Sinai Hospital. The party kicks off at 6pm.

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