Now that I’ve explained the history of the strip as well as highlighted some of the hot spots, I’m going to tell you about some of the tradition that exists within the strip. For this piece, I relied heavily on my Gram, a retired seventy-two-year-old woman, who is very familiar with the area.
For many in the Western PA region, people associate the strip with good vibes, great feelings, and hope. This is because it is a top destination for shopping come the holidays. Now, we’re not talking about last minute gift shopping, but instead, grocery shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner.
It all begins with light-up-night, a classic Pittsburgh tradition that kicks off the holiday season the Friday before Thanksgiving. After this celebration, all of the stores have their decorations up and the streets are decked with wreaths and lights. The best representation of this can be seen right in the center of the strip walking down Penn Avenue. Once early December rolls around, you can see a noticeable uptick in traffic in the strip. You can sense the big day getting closer as more and more people begin to purchase the ingredients they need for the holiday season. The allure of the strip for holiday ingredients is that they are all fresh and authentic, at least, according to my Gram.
For her, the strip district resides in some of her earliest memories. She explained to me how every black Friday, they would go down to the strip and buy all the ingredients they needed to get started on Christmas cookies. My Gram’s Mom was born in Italy and came to the U.S. in her mid 20s and she swore that the strip had the most authentic Italian ingredients. Since my Great gramma, my Gram’s Mom, said this, we’ve been going to the strip every year.
Moving on, my Gram explained how she went down to the strip on Christmas Eve every year from when she was four until she was fifty-six! Every year, there was the same large crowd. There was never a year where she didn’t wait at least an hour in line or where she didn’t run into at least a dozen people that she knew. Listening intently, I asked her, “How come you went down there every Christmas Eve, didn’t you get annoyed with the same lines every year?” She responded, “Well you’ve been going your whole life haven’t you?” I couldn’t stop laughing because she was right! Since we moved back from London when I was seven, I’ve been going to the strip with my family every year on Christmas Eve. I just can’t seem to get away from the holiday spirit.
In my opinion, this says a lot about the strip. There are very few places that people want to travel to where they know the stores are going to be packed. With the strip, it is totally different; people embrace the hustle and bustle. Come the Christmas season, something magical happens within the streets of the Strip. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but whatever it is, it keeps me coming back year after year. Regardless of how finals go, or whatever else is happening in my life, it is something I look forward to and I’m not the only one with this opinion. Everyone in my family feels the same way! Take a visit down to Penn Avenue or Smallman street during the holiday season, you’ll catch the Christmas bug immediately!
“The Strip District: A Place like No Other.” Popular Pittsburgh, 24 Nov. 2014, popularpittsburgh.com/ stripdistrict-3/.