It’s nostalgic, yet obscure.
And as far as Pittsburgh-themed Halloween costumes go, it may be one of the best.
A fan of weird and eye-catching costumes, Maggie Graham, a Who’s Next Communications honoree, was chatting about a holiday tradition a few weeks ago when inspiration struck — she could dress up as the Eat’n Park Christmas star commercial.
It’s part of every Yinzer kid’s childhood, Graham said. There’s even a Pittsburgh Dad episode where he says it’s not time for Christmas until “that Eat’n Park Star commercial” is on.
“That’s what it really was for my family,” she said, of growing up in Greensburg.
It’s still a family tradition. Graham said her family will text her sister, Katie Key, when the commercial is back, since Key — who loved the costume idea and helped Graham design it — can’t see it air from her home near Raleigh, N.C.
Graham said she typically isn’t a Christmas-before-Thanksgiving (or even before Halloween) type of person. But she made an exception this time.
“Since I’m a Christmas tree, I’m already out,” she joked, adding she was grateful for early holiday supplies at the craft store, so she could assemble the look.
Graham wore her tree costume to three Halloween parties this weekend. Friends who grew up in the area got her costume right away, she said, adding that at the first party, she still had her Eat’n Park sign in her purse when she walked in. But one friend knew right away: “Oh my gosh, are you the Eat’n Park Christmas tree?”
People shared stories about the commercial with Graham, and she said posts of her costume are the most-liked thing on all of her social accounts. Even in the marketing world, nostalgia is really popular right now, said Graham, who owns communication consulting firm Meet Maggie.
Eat’n Park noticed her costume, too.
“When the star reached the top and the tree lit up, we got the same goosebumps as we get from the animated commercial every year,” Spokesperson Kevin O’Connell told The Incline via email. “To our knowledge, we have never seen a Christmas Star Halloween costume before, although we did have a tree mascot costume many years ago.”
So what do you get for having one of the most nostalgic costumes in town? Eat’n Park told its followers about her costume and gave Graham a gift card.
But when she entered one costume contest this weekend, Graham only received an honorable mention. There weren’t enough people who grew up in Pittsburgh there, Graham laughed.
“Anyone who’s a transplant didn’t get it,” she said. “I’m not just a Christmas tree, I’m the most important Christmas tree.”
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Eat’n Park Christmas Star commercial, which was designed as “a holiday card on video to thank the city of Pittsburgh for their support of Eat’n Park,” per a 2008 blog post from the restaurant.
Years later, the “old-fashioned feel to the animation and to the story of the star that can’t reach the top of the branches until the tree leans over to help out” is still a heart-warming and popular tale, according to a Post-Gazette article noting its 30th anniversary in 2012.
Since the commercial is so popular, O’Connell said, Eat’n Park usually posts the viewing schedule on its blog in late November so fans can watch it live on TV.
Spoiler alert: It returns to the Western Pa. airwaves during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade broadcast on Nov. 23.
Copy her look
Once she got the idea, Graham said she turned to Pinterest and her sister to figure out how to pull it off. Here’s how she did it:
What you need:
- Green felt
- Battery-powered LED mini Christmas lights
- A mini tree topper
- Long sleeve green shirt
- Printed Eat’n Park sign
How to do it:
- Trace an A-line dress onto the green felt, adding points for the tree branches.
- Cut out the dress and hot glue it together.
- Add lights.
- Add lights to the dress.
- Stitch lights to the shirt sleeves in a few places to help them stay.
- Attach lights to the star.
- Hold the light switch in your hand to turn the lights on when the star reaches the top.
- Add an Eat’n Park logo to the bottom of your dress.
Bonus: Graham said multiple people asked her for Smiley Cookies. So if you really want to be nice, bring Smiley Cookies with you to pass out to friends and/or trick-or-treaters.