It's a magical moment: you're shivering in the cold on a high, exposed "L" stop, annoyed by the tedium of your commute. And then: lights, colors, music, Santa! It's the CTA Holiday Train! Starting last Friday, November 24, the Holiday Train began traveling the rails, after a test-run on the Red Line. (You can see when it will be on each line here.) And on Tuesday, November 28, the Holiday Bus begins its monthlong stint shuttling passengers and granting photo opportunities with Santa. (Bus schedule here.)
The bus, with its antlers and glowing red nose on the outside and Santa's workshop and colored lights on the inside, has only been running for the previous three years. But this year is the 25th year of the train, which consists of six cars and a Santa's Sleigh in the middle (more cars are added with the Elves' Workshop train on Saturdays). The tradition begain in 1992 when an out-of-service train being used to deliver food to charities on the Blue Line was decorated with a sign proclaiming "Season's Greetings from the CTA." The decorations are much more elaborate now, and you might even get a candy cane.
The train generally operates in the late afternoon and the evening. CTA advises that you try to board near the beginning of a route, as the train becomes especially crowded, especially on days when you can take a picture with Santa. You can see where the train is using the CTA Train Tracker, where it will be denoted with a candy cane.