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How Does Your City Do the Holidays?

How Does Your City Do the Holidays?

We are just 10 days from Christmas and we just finished Hanukkah a couple of days ago. Throughout October-January, people will celebrate more than they have all year it seems, at least on a national scale. How has that manifested in different cities? What are some of the holiday traditions you’ve observed. I’ll share a handful and invite you to share yours in the comments and on various social media channels.

The Forever Mall Santa–The Friendly Center Santa, Greensboro, NC


Santa waves out to greet shoppers at Friendly Center, Greensboro, NC

I couldn’t crank this up without sharing one of the first major public displays of Christmas I grew up with, the Friendly Center Santa. This guy has waved at people for as long as I’ve been alive (30 years) and I know for much longer. He’s also been remarkably standing at that same spot, although what surrounds him has gone through some dramatic changes (in the picture shown, he’s standing next to Belk, but when I was born, he would have been standing in the same spot next to Harris Teeter). Accompanied by some wreaths on the light poles and the tram to cart people around (because re-parking is almost impossible this time a year, here’s to some early transit-related memories for me), this signaled Christmas’s arrival at what has become our premier shopping mall in Greensboro.

The Neighborhood Carol of the Balls–The Sunset Hills Balls,Greensboro, NC

About a mile and some change from Friendly Center, the Sunset Hills neighborhood hangs those Christmas light balls, not just in their smaller, newer trees, but the huge, stories-tall ones that overarches their neighborhood, which dates to the turn of the 20th century. Growing organically over the years, now the neighborhood boasts a 5K run and has been featured in national publications (you know, ones that unlike mine don’t have a personal tie to the city), for its uniqueness.

The Life-sized Hallmark Keepsake Village–The Plaza Lights, Kansas City, MO

Plaza Lights, by Flickr User Franklin D. Thompson

Plaza Lights, by Flickr User Franklin D. Thompson

In my first few weeks here, dead in the middle of the summer, folks were telling me to get ready for the Plaza lights, no sooner than the sun sets on the same day we  gave thanks and ate some form of turkey. Sure enough, despite heavy rains this year, people came out to see them be turned on for the first time and I’ve driven through several times over the last few days. Kansas City is home of Hallmark and you can see where they got the idea of their Christmas villages from when you see this spot. It’s literally a life-size version, with Spanish Revival undertones. The lights stay on each night until 3 a.m. and will be lit nightly until well into January.

The Central Outdoor Ice Rink Made of Synthetic Ice– Greensboro, KC, Your Town Too, Even If It’s 70 Degrees Outside.


Skating in Downtown Greensboro, December 14, 2011

It used to just be Rockefeller Center. Now, at least for the last 4 years, we’ve skated outside somewhere in the proximity of downtown, the lifestyle center, the corporate redevelopment with the extra mall tacked on, with plastic palm trees in the back ground, etc. For a girl who grew up on her roller skates and adored figure skaters in prior Winter Olympics, it’s fun to pretend to be doing a freestyle skate routine in the middle of town. Of any of the holiday traditions listed above, this is one that’s pretty universal it seems, at least in the past few years.

Centralized Christmas Trees and Major Parades– Everywhere

Who doesn’t have a town, that doesn’t have a town Christmas tree, or if there’s no central major Christmas tree, there’s at least a holiday parade. Not that these things aren’t unique, but I feel they are one of the easiest ways towns and cities honor the winter holidays.

Finally, not to leave Hanukkah out– 2nd Night Plane Drop, Greensboro, NC

Greensboro’s Center City Park held a plane drop of treats for kids and kids at heart on the 2nd night of Hanukkah this year at the Center City Park, in the shadow of the city’s Christmas tree. The two holidays seemed to merge a bit this year, as the city’s tree went with solid golden lights, essentially like the candles on a menorah. Makes sense as both Jewish and Christian businessmen paid an equal part in building many of the companies that have made Greensboro what it is today. I’ve also heard about a number of life-sized menorahs in city squares.

And of course, New Year’s Eve, what do you drop?

The Raleigh Acorn Drop. By Ke4roh (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Raleigh Acorn Drop. By Ke4roh (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In Raleigh, my beloved college hometown, it’s an acorn, in honor of Raleigh being the City of Oaks. That story you heard about the possum drop, that’s true too, although the poor guy sounds like he’s getting a break this year. Another nearby Eastern North Carolina town drops a pickle, to honor its status as a major pickle mill town. And if your town isn’t dropping anything to countdown to midnight, you can always borrow Times’ Square’s ball. Although, now that I live in the Central time zone, I’m not sure how that will work. I will be back east for New Years Eve though.

So again, that’s how the cities I’ve lived in and a handful of others, do the holidays. Let me know how you celebrate?

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