If you take a hard look at all the activities and the necessary energy that focuses on the end of the year during the Holiday Season, you will appreciate that here along the Gulf Coast we do things with a little more intensity, a little more creativity, and a lot more tradition.
The many cultures that put roots into our soft soils each brought their heritage from the Old Country. They brought their traditions and their cuisines. The manner of celebration took one of three paths, or maybe even a combination of all of the three. The French and Spanish brought Catholic traditions. The English and the Germans brought their Protestant manners. And the Caribbean nations along with Africa brought their beliefs and style.
Lately we have seen new immigrants from Vietnam and other parts of Asia, people from Mexico and South America, and folks from Eastern Europe all begin their lives in a new homeland, in our neighborhoods. They all are contributors to our magical blend of lifestyles.
Which brings us to our main point: while we are all Americans, our ancestral roots are acknowledged, recognized and respected. Our family’s personal, generations-ago history is very close to what we are today, even though our friends and family members may no longer be with us. And since every country’s and every family’s traditions and practices are different, by continuing to live and honor our roots, together we are all creating new traditions slightly different from the old ones. A wondrous blend, to be sure.
Let’s see how the folks along America’s Third Coast celebrate this special season. And if we get a moment or two along the way between our own celebrations, maybe a visit to other areas is warranted.
Santa Rosa, Florida – the world-class, pristine, white, sugar-sand beaches of the Florida panhandle are the perfect place to begin the Holiday Tour. Travel & Leisure Magazine also thinks so. They have named the Santa Rosa Beach area, notably Seaside, Number 11 on their list of America’s Best Holiday Towns.
They were most appreciative of the warm sunshine and the likewise warm, by standards of other parts of the country, Gulf of Mexico waters. A highlight of the season here is the 40-mile Winter Solstice Run, December 21, along the beaches and lakes of Santa Rosa. Just in case jogging 40 miles is outside the reasonable limits of your endurance, there is also a 10-mile version.
Pensacola, Florida – right at the corner of Palifox, Street and the Courthouse is a Christmas town, part of the Pensacola Winterfest. Ride the Polar Express. Romp and play Reindeer Games. Enjoy Santa’s Express Tour. Attend live performances of Holiday stage plays. Sip Hot Chocolate.
Mobile, Alabama – Spending the Holidays with Trace Adkins is nothing to be taken lightly, but on top of that will be a Christmas evening of cool jazz. Don’t miss the special presentations of movie classics, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas,” shown in theatres around town.
Gulfport, Mississippi – this coastal town is initiating a new tradition this year with Holiday Hoopla, a community-wide celebration staged along Beach Boulevard.
Biloxi, Mississippi – Christmas at Beauvoir, a month-long presentation of how the Holidays were celebrated back in the 1800’s in this area, will bring you of the true spirit of Christmas. All the casinos in this area are mounting elaborate decoration displays and special Holiday concerts throughout the season.
New Orleans, Louisiana – America’s ultimate town of celebration is not to be left out of Christmas and New Years. Every park in the area displays elaborate Holiday lighting, Jackson Square is all decked out in the spirit of the season, concerts are staged by the St. Louis Cathedral Choir, the New Orleans Symphony Chorus, and there are innumerable versions of The Nutcracker on stages all over town. Caroling in the Square will put you and more than 4,000 of your new best friends in the perfect Holiday mood. Every restaurant in town participates in Reveillon Dinners and the City’s famed adult watering holes feature specially crafted cocktails, warm and perfect for the season.
The River Parishes – along the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, peppered with grand plantation homes emblematic of another era, the residents build elaborate wooden towers, many as high as 25-feet all along the levee. On Christmas Eve these are lit by fire. The Bonfires Along the Levee are traditionally noted to light the way to the homes of good little boys and girls. It is customary to load the family into the car and drive along the River Road appreciating this long-standing practice which gives off light, heat and a dazzling effect along the waters of America’s greatest river.
Ahh, but there’s more. Lots more. The Holiday activities in the Gulf Coast region are innumerable and impressive. Check the local listings for times and dates, and any admission charges, but most are free and welcoming of children.
Even in this hectic season with an amazing array of events, we recognize the common bonds of life’s joy, a shared heritage, and the desire to have a good time.
Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and to all, a Good Night.