ğŸŽ… Happy Friday. Let the new month wash over you.

ğŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Chicago members Diane Black, Bill and Sue Davis!

Today's newsletter is 898 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Christmas tree treasure trove

Monica can't believe all the lovingly decorated trees inside the Cook County Treasurer's Office. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

No downtown holiday visit is complete without stops at the (former) Marshall Field's windows, the Millennium Park tree, Christkindlmarket and … the Cook County Treasurer's Office.

Why it matters: For 20 years now, Treasurer Maria Pappas has presented one of the city's most elaborate international holiday displays right in her office.

Driving the news: Called "Christmas Trees from Around the World," it features 87 individually decorated trees reflecting cultures spanning the globe.

  • Pappas is also throwing a holiday party tonight at her office, where local diplomats and the public are invited to enjoy the elaborate tree display, music and snacks.

What she's saying: The tradition started after Pappas learned that the people who came to pay taxes in her office "speak 120 different languages," she tells Axios.

  • "So I immediately started to cater to them, and that's where I got this Christmas tree idea."

Of note: The display goes beyond Christmas decorations to include a Kwanzaa kinara, a Hindu prayer thali and a menorah.

  • Pappas invites "people working or shopping downtown" to "see the beautiful decorations and learn how different cultures celebrate the holidays."
Christmas trees
One row of international holiday trees in the Cook County Treasurer's Office. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

The intrigue: The exhibit inevitably attracts comparisons to the Museum of Science and Industry's "Christmas Around the World," which the treasurer describes as "a Nabisco chocolate chip cookie, and Pappas' is a homemade chocolate chip cookie."

  • "I think you'll see when you come in."

Bonus: Sources tell Axios that one of the hottest gifts of the season — official Maria Pappas 2024 calendars — may be given out as party favors at tonight's event.

If you go: The Cook County Treasurer's Office is on the first floor of the County Building, across the street from the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza.

  • The display runs through Jan. 2 — 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, except for tonight's party, which starts at 5pm.

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2. 🏆 Best local commercial crowned

Bracket: Axios Visuals

Our readers have spoken: Empire Carpet's long-running commercials are the greatest of all time in Chicago.

Yes, but: Hats off to Victory Auto Wreckers. The company ended its run in Chicago last month, inspiring this awesome tournament.

Flashback: Empire Carpet (now called Empire Today) was a Chicago company that started in 1959. But the iconic commercial came years later, when a local ad writer donned the Empire carpet uniform and changed history.

  • Now, it's a national company, hence the 1-800 thrown in front of the jingle.

Look back at the results here. We'll return with another Chicago tournament in January.

3. ğŸŽ° Aurora breaks ground on casino project

Rendering courtesy of PENN Entertainment/Hollywood Casino

The City of Aurora broke ground Wednesday on a casino and entertainment complex.

What's happening: The $360 million project is being developed adjacent to Chicago Premium Outlets, right off I-88.

Details: The new Hollywood Casino will include up to 1,200 slots and tables and operate a sportsbook.

  • The project includes a 200-room hotel and a 12,000-square-foot event center for meetings and conferences.

Construction should be completed by 2025, a year earlier than the Chicago casino in West Town.

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4. Tips and hot links

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🐟 After the judge refused to declare a mistrial in Ed Burke's corruption case, jurors heard the infamous "did we land the big tuna" recordings that were in the Burke indictments. (Sun-Times)

🥅 Former Blackhawks player Corey Perry issued an apology for his behavior, which led to his being cut by the team earlier this week. (NBC 5)

🍔 A new secretive spin-off McDonald's restaurant called CosMc's may be close to opening in Bolingbrook. (ABC 7)

🏠 Chicago-area homeowners are taking losses when selling their homes, but not as much as last year. (Axios)

Stay booked and busy

📅 Upcoming events around the city.

The Toy Drive, Drive at Midwest Performance Cars on Dec. 2:

  • The Toy Drive happens in two locations: Midwest Performance Cars in Fulton Market and Burdi Clothing, Hinsdale. You can partake in the festivities at either location or join the caravan that leaves from MPC, heading to Burdi Clothing. Free.

Hosting an event? Email [email protected].

5. Best Day Ever: Chef Art Smith

Chef Art Smith. Photo: Michael Tullberg/Getty Images

Chicago chef Art Smith has served the Obamas, Oprah Winfrey and scores of others who come to his restaurants across the country, including most recently Reunion at Navy Pier.

What's happening: The Kenwood resident is launching a Santa's Southern Workshop pop-up every Friday-Sunday through Dec. 23, featuring prix-fixe lunches and dinners ($15-$30), along with a visit with Mr. Claus.

We asked Smith to share his ideal day in town, where he spends at least half the year.

Breakfast: To start off my ideal day, you'd find me enjoying matzo brie at Eleven City Diner.

ğŸž Morning activity: First, I would feed my critters. Once everyone is taken care of, I would bake a fresh sourdough and accomplish some work in my kitchen office.

Lunch: I'd head over to Navy Pier to my restaurant, Chef Art Smith's Reunion, to enjoy our navy bean soup. The perfect complement to a chilly Chicago day.

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6. 🇮🇪 Quoted: Remembering Shane MacGowan

Shane MacGowan of The Pogues performs onstage at the Vic Theater on July 12, 1986. Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

The Pogues' notorious frontman Shane MacGowan died yesterday at age 65.

What's happening: Tributes have poured in for the Irish punk rock/folk singer from all over the world and right here in Chicago.

  • We asked some of Chicago's music community to share their thoughts and personal stories about the legendary musician, who spent a lot of time in town.

What they're saying: "Hearing about Shane's death, the first thought was, 'How did he live this long?' Beaten and broken after years of addiction and self destruction, he somehow carried on the whiskey-soaked tradition of many of Ireland's great writers and poets with heart and soul," Marty Lennartz, morning show host at WXRT, tells Axios.

  • "The Pogues, with Shane as their teetering and growling frontman and their 'kiss my arse' attitude, found the connection between traditional Irish music, punk rock and even American country. A ramshackle stew for sure, but something my dad would blast every St. Patrick's Day, much to the disapproval of my mother, who was the Irish in the family."
  • "Love live Shane! Long live the Pogues!"

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Edited by Alexa Mencia and copy edited by Rob Reinalda and Keely Bastow.

Our picks:

🐕 Monica is looking forward to Duncan Robert Anderson's "The House Across the River" show at the The Dime gallery tonight that is, in part, dedicated to his late dog Smokey, whose last weeks the artist memorialized heartbreakingly over the last year.

ğŸŽ¤ Justin is ready to take part in the "Renaissance" this weekend.

🏝️ Carrie is on vacation.

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