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Happy Holidays in Pittsburgh | BACK TO PRESS ROOM INDEX

A warm and wacky look at a few

Click here for program fact sheet.

PITTSBURGH – The winter holidays happen everywhere, but in the area around Pittsburgh, there are places and attractions, traditions and events that make the season special in wonderful and specific ways. In a special program titled “Happy Holidays In Pittsburgh,” producer Rick Sebak celebrates some of the things that people do in one corner of Pennsylvania to help brighten the long nights, to observe ancient customs and holy days, and to bring in the New Year with a big splash.

In September 2003, “Happy Holidays In Pittsburgh” received the Mid-Atlantic Regional Emmy Award for Outstanding Cultural Program with statues going to both Rick and his editor, Kevin Conrad.

“ We shot everything in and around Pittsburgh between mid-November and mid-January,” says Rick, “and now we’ve edited all the footage down into a fast-moving and somewhat wacky package.” There are segments about several holidays, including Hanukah, Ramadan, Christmas and Kwanzaa, but there are also stories about the light displays at the park called Hartwood Acres, the delicious shopping in the Strip District, the big trees in the Hall of Architecture at Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Allegheny West House Tour, among others. “It’s a show with lots of surprises,” Rick adds, “I know because we all were surprised many times by the wide range of unusual celebrations and personal traditions that we found.”

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Credit: Carnegie Library
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The program offers lots of suggestions and reminders about things to see and do during the holiday season, no matter what your background. There’s a nursery where you can cut-you-own trees, an antique presepio, or nativity scene, which re-locates the birth of Christ to Naples in the eighteenth century. Families have been traveling to Pittsburgh’s North Side for decades to see the Miniature Railroad and Village at the Carnegie Science Center. And no matter where you travel in the Pittsburgh area at this time of year, you are going to see lots of houses decorated with candles and greens and all sorts of strings of lights.

“Actually, the story we did about people and their decorated houses was really fun,” says Rick. “We just drove around until we saw a display we liked, then I would go up and ring the doorbell, explain what we were doing, and ask if the chief decorator would come out and talk with us. Everybody said “Yes.” I think people hang lights for lots of reasons, but to get some extra attention for your efforts is especially satisfying. And we all love the guy who admits he’s so addicted to lights that he sometimes sneaks them past his wife who doesn’t support his habit.”

As in any Sebak documentary, there is food. The Scandinavian Society of Pittsburgh assembles an incredible smorgasbord for its annual Christmas party. A Muslim family in Brookline makes Pakistani specialties for dinner after sunset during Ramadan. There are potato latkes at all the Hanukkah parties. On Christmas Eve, we visit one family in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood that makes the traditional Italian feast of the seven fishes.

“We don’t pretend that we have covered everything about the holidays in our city,” says Rick. “It’s a wonderful time of year, and we wanted to celebrate just some of the things that caught our attention and fit into our shooting schedule. We actually hope that this program will be a huge success so that we can do a follow-up or two in years to come.”

“Happy Holidays In Pittsburgh” is Rick’s fifteenth program in the unusual and multiple-award-winning Pittsburgh History Series.

Funding for “Happy Holidays In Pittsburgh” was provided by the Buhl Foundation, serving Southwestern Pennsylvania since 1927. Additional funding was provided by the Tippins Foundation and by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. Rick Sebak produced, wrote and narrated the program; Kevin Conrad edited it; Buck Brinson, Mark Knobil, Bob Lubomski, Paul Ruggieri and Steve Willing ran the camera; Minette Seate was Associate Producer; Matt Conrad was Associate Editor; and Patty Walker was Project Director.

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