I figured it was only fair to finish off my little Travel Tuesday Christmas tour – and to celebrate Christmas Eve – with my original home state of Alabama. I’m actually in Alabama right now, taking part in some of these wonderful traditions. I already know that a diet/detox is making my New Years’ Resolution list (smile)!
Christmas in the south is always a gamble in terms of weather. I’ve built snowmen, I’ve gone swimming, I’ve also hidden in the hallway as tornado sirens wail – it all just depends on mother nature’s temperament that year. This year was actual quite pleasant until today; not to say it’s unpleasant now but it is significantly cooler. Always a slight adjustment from the desert these days (smile).
Much like Phoenix, south Alabama really gets into the holiday spirit. There are decorations and lights everywhere! In fact, for many years there was an actual place called Christmas City. It was sort of like a Christmas theme park – there was a long winding drive through light spectacular that ended in a faux town. In town there were all sorts of holiday shops, hot chocolate, and even rocking chairs by a fire. Over the years, various people have opened up their property to similar setups – drive around and look at the lights then give a little donation at the end for the next year. It’s actually pretty amazing.
The one theme that is more prevalent here than any of the other places I’ve described is the religious aspect of the Christmas holiday. All of the churches have holiday-themed events from Christmas fetes to living nativities, to reenactments of the [biblical] Christmas story. I always volunteered as the angel (smile). My favorite tradition has always been the late night carol service. Everyone lights a candle and sings carols. Regardless of my personal opinion on the religious aspect, it is a beautiful service and seems to really bring everyone together. I appreciate how community-oriented all of it is.
There are also lots of trees around – both wild and cultured. Usually half the fun of finding a Christmas tree farm is actually finding the Christmas tree farm (Christmas trees have only very recently been sold at retail locations around here). Then there’s the fun of finding the “perfect” tree and getting it home, etc. My family would normally try to scout one out on our property, but there were some years that just didn’t work out. Either way, it was always a fun family adventure (smile).
Then there’s family. I’m fairly certain this one is universal, but I’ve found that it’s actually a little scandalous not to be home for Christmas (as in Christmas Eve/Day). I’m usually the black sheep that chooses to fly home on one of those days (there’s just generally less chaos and it costs less), and I always catch a hard time about it. I finally realized it’s because my grandparents are almost shamed that their grandkids don’t want to be home for the whole shebang. Sometimes, living so far away, I forget how important family appearances can be around here. I’m trying to make more of an effort; we’ll see how it goes. Regardless, it’s imperative that all grandparents be seen and a meal of some nature undertaken. Oh and the food! The food! There’s an abundance of grandma cooking and deserts galore! It’s almost a relief to go on a strict salad diet for the week or two after Christmas – almost (smile).
Overall, Christmas in the South is a lot of fun. It’s steeped in tradition and family; you know you’ll never be on your own, whether you’re a blood relative or “spiritual” relative (as my grandma calls them). And I personally think that’s really neat. It’s an aspect of the famed southern hospitality that I never really understood until I got older. I hope it’s something that I will keep with me no matter where I go in this world.
What’s your favorite local and/or hometown tradition??