Happy Birthday, Light-Up Night

A look at the history of Pittsburgh’s beloved holiday event, plus the lineup for this year’s two-day affair when the city lights up for the 50th time.



In November 2009, Pittsburghers gathered on the Roberto Clemente Bridge to take part in the first-ever Light Up Night Bridge Party.

Photo by John Altdorfer

The first illumination of Pittsburgh had nothing to do with the holidays—it didn’t even take place during the winter. The very first unofficial light-up event was held in April 1959 to open the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball season.

Fast forward to November 21, 1960: Prior to that year, Pittsburgh’s holiday celebration was called as the Preview of Christmas, but due to its success, the Golden Triangle Association and the Building Owners and Managers Association decided to turn Light Up Night into an official holiday event. During the first Light Up Night, all lights downtown were switched on at exactly 6 p.m. as department stores revealed their holiday displays.

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, Light Up Night 2010 includes new and traditional features in the two-day affair. Hollie Geitner, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s vice president of marketing and communications, says the event is now “more engaging with activities and performances throughout the Golden Triangle [while still maintaining] the tradition of [including] Pittsburgh performers.”

Annual tree lightings will take place in various locations on Friday: PPG Place, One Oxford Centre, the City-County Building and on the side of the former Horne’s department store. And each year, The Rink at PPG Place opens the day of Light Up Night, showing off a 65-foot Christmas tree and an exhibit of Santas from around the world.

Other events taking place are the dedication of the Pittsburgh Crèche—the world’s only authorized replica of the crèche in St. Peter’s Square in Rome—at noon on Friday and the annual Light Up Night Bridge Party. The party, which closes Friday’s celebration, is held on the Roberto Clemente Bridge and is equipped with a Zambelli fireworks show.

This year marks the introduction of the horse-drawn carriage parade at 5 p.m. on Saturday; it includes nearly 40 horse-drawn carriages riding around downtown while passengers (local celebrities and others) spread holiday spirit. Following the parade, Santa and Mrs. Claus will take center stage in a brief show before taking part in a one-of-a-kind wedding ceremony in Market Square—cake included. (Fri.-Sat., Nov. 19-20. Info: 412/566-4190, downtownpittsburgh.com)

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Which 33 establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

Executive chefs often are given much of the credit for their restaurants’ success, but that praise would be hard to bestow if each did not lead an outstanding kitchen brigade.
The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

From ferns to forsythia, there are ample growth opportunities for creating a gorgeous, low-maintenance garden this year in your own backyard.
PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

In this case, as in most others, it's better to give than take.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

2 Fastest-Growing Towns in the State Are in the Pittsburgh Area

2 Fastest-Growing Towns in the State Are in the Pittsburgh Area

Also, why it's a good time to own a bed and breakfast in Pittsburgh.
You'll Need Your GPS This Weekend in Pittsburgh

You'll Need Your GPS This Weekend in Pittsburgh

Three big events will shut down more than a dozen streets in the downtown area. If you want to get from here to there, read this first.
5 Things You Need to Know About Open StreetsPGH

5 Things You Need to Know About Open StreetsPGH

Sunday's event will transform more than 3 miles of city streets into a motor-vehicle-free festival area.
Maddie Ziegler & Family Move Up to Million-Dollar Home

Maddie Ziegler & Family Move Up to Million-Dollar Home

The new home has everything the tween dance sensation could ever need (we think).
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Which 33 establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

Executive chefs often are given much of the credit for their restaurants’ success, but that praise would be hard to bestow if each did not lead an outstanding kitchen brigade.
The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

From ferns to forsythia, there are ample growth opportunities for creating a gorgeous, low-maintenance garden this year in your own backyard.
PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

In this case, as in most others, it's better to give than take.
On Par with Arnie, She is America's 'Queen of Golf'

On Par with Arnie, She is America's 'Queen of Golf'

The world of golf may have been slow to embrace women, but Sewickley amateur Carol Semple Thompson always has found her way into the club.
Last in the Water But First at the Finish Line

Last in the Water But First at the Finish Line

Penn State Behrend swimmer Mia Pietropola’s deafness may give her competitors an advantage at the starting blocks. She beats them anyway.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module