Smile Politely

Get your Culture here: Four experiences to have in December 2022

I don’t know about you, but I am already struggling with the recent time change. When it’s dark by 5 p.m., it’s tempting to just hunker down in my house until the sun comes out again. Let’s not do that. December in C-U is packed full of activity, and things are downright festive. We know that January will be a general bummer of a month, so take advantage. Get out there and have some experiences! 

Have a shopping experience

Four image squares: A woman holding an evergreen wreath with her head in the center, a snowman painted on a piece of wood, a batch of decorated sugar cookies decorated as snowflakes, Christmas trees, and gingerbread men, and a wood carving of winter trees. Image from Mistletoe Market Facebook page.

Images from Mistletoe Market Facebook page.

Look, we all have to shop for someone this time of year. It’s way more fun when there’s some drinks, treats, and/or entertainment involved. We have no shortage of shopping experiences over the next few weeks. You’ll find unique things and you’ll be supporting local businesses and makers. You could even have your picture taken with a goat

Mistletoe Market is back again with two opportunities to shop nearly 50 area vendors. You could seriously get all of your shopping done in one swoop by attending one of these. On December 3rd they will be at Lincoln Square Mall, and on December 18th they will be at The Venue. If you are looking to maximize your shopping, this is a must do. Take a peek at their Facebook page for an idea of what you’ll find there.

If you want to do a little shopping, but also want to hang out and drink drinks and have festivities, then Riggs Christmas Market is always a blast. I’m usually able to pick up a couple of gifts there, but the biggest draw for me is the mulled wine, crepes, and bratwurst. The market will be happening the next three weekends. 

I’m not even scratching the surface here. Check out our Guide to Shopping Local for a more comprehensive list of holiday shopping experiences. 

Have a philanthropic experience

A black plastic container holds a Thanksgiving meal including turkey, green beans, stuffing, potatoes, and cranberry sauce. There are two paper containers with pieces of pie next to it. Photo from Community UCC Facebook page.

Photo from Community UCC Facebook page.

Giving Tuesday has passed, but there are always needs in our community. Maybe you feel a little extra tug this time of year, and feel compelled to do something to help. Organizations are always in need of monetary donations, if you have money to give. There are also several places to donate new and gently used warm winter gear  something in high demand right now (Cunningham Township, Parkland College, and the City of Champaign/Champaign Park District are all collecting items).

Go a step further and volunteer your time. Jubilee Cafe serves a meal and gives away pantry items to community members and students on Monday evenings. They’ve recently gone back to indoor dining as well as sending off to-go meals, so there are many volunteer needs. You can sign up here.

The C-U One-to-One Mentoring Program has a huge need for mentors. This is a long term commitment, but it can make a significant impact on a kid in our community. You can be matched a students from 3rd grade through high school, and then you just meet with them once a week. It’s not tutoring, you are just another adult that can show up for them consistently. Students who continue with the program until graduation get a scholarship. I’ve done this for several years now, and it is worthwhile and rewarding.

Have a holiday lights experience

A stone figure sitting on a stone pedestal is encircled by white lights and evergreen trees with white lights. It is pitch dark. Photo by Julie McClure.

Photo by Julie McClure.

In December of 2020, spurred on by the need to get out and do things outdoors in the winter, I finally made it to the Winter Walk at Allerton Park, now Holiday GLOW. It’s definitely worth the trip out to Monticello, if only for some Instagram worthy pics. It’s a lovely little one mile walk, and if you go on a Friday or Saturday you can grab food and drinks from a food truck. See the full schedule here. However, if you go on a less popular night, like a Sunday or a weeknight, it’s a bit quieter and more serene. It’s open every night from now through December 23rd, then also the 27-30 and the first two weekends in January. If you want to combine shopping and holiday lights, head over on Friday for opening night of GLOW and the Holiday Showcase.

Need more holiday lights to stroll through? Try Winter Nights at Prairie Farms or Night Lights in the Garden at Lake of the Woods. 

Have an escape room experience

A black and white photo of the entrance to Museum of the Grand Prairie. Laid over the image it says Escape the Museum in red block letters. Image from Facebook event page.

Image from Facebook event page.

Students and faculty from Fine and Applied Arts and iSchool at the University of Illinois have created an escape room experience at the Museum of the Grand Prairie that will be operating December 4-6. It’s free, and it requires participants to “use local history to solve an intricate mystery”. The game is meant for 2 to 6 players, and you need to register for a time slot to participate.

C-U Adventures in Time and Space has a holiday-themed game right now, Scrooge’s Christmas Trap. It’s meant for 2 to 8 players, and ticket prices depend on how many are in your party. Take note: They began running this game in 2019, so if you’ve done it already it won’t be much fun. If you need a new challenge, check out one of their other offerings!

Top photo by Julie McClure.

Staff writer

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