Photo: Happy Hirtzel/Shutterstock

It's Not Christmas in Alabama Until These 11 Things Happen

by Anna Irving Dec 22, 2016

1. The state of Alabama lights its Christmas tree.

Alabama LOVES Christmas. In fact, in 1936, Alabama became the first state to name Christmas as a legal, state holiday. Every year, our state officials gather on the steps of the capitol building to decorate and light the state Christmas tree. Included in the décor are over 40,000 lights, and 67 stars, which represent Alabama’s 67 counties. Shenanigans usually follow the ceremony, of course. Southerners love shenanigans.

2. The Annual Lighted Boat Parade floats through Gulf Shores.

With over 30 participants, this year marked the 31st Annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade in Gulf Shores. Each year, participants decorate their boats for Christmas and float from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach. Awards are given based on size and “fun,” but truth be told, they’re all fun!

3. Birmingham locals start to avoid The Summit and 280 altogether.

Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to. If you’re an Alabama citizen with any common sense – I am not – you got your Christmas shopping done in October. Congratulations, you’ve completely bypassed the traffic on Highway 280, and the yearly traffic fiasco at The Summit shopping center. Great job! If you’re like me, however, just plan to be there for an extra hour, literally. Just. Sitting. In. Traffic.

4. The Holiday Film Series comes to The Alabama Theatre in Birmingham.

Alabamians from all over look forward to the Holiday Film Series every year. The Alabama Theatre, which ironically opened to the public the day after Christmas in 1927, is a beautiful, historic building downtown. It hosts concerts, plays, and the Alabama Ballet, among others. During Christmastime, visitors can join together, sing some carols, and enjoy a holiday movie complete with snacks. We look forward to it every year!

5. Homewood parking becomes even more of a heinous mess.

Parking in downtown Homewood is a struggle. There are only two large lots, and one entire lot is apparently “private parking.” On an average day, patrons of Homewood shops park on the street a few blocks from their destinations, and during the holiday shopping season, it’s every man for himself. May the odds be ever in your favor as you hike 5 miles back to your car with your bags and bags of Christmas gifts from the boutiques on 18th.

6. Baked goods start to arrive on your front porch as if by magic.

Everyone’s grandmother, sister, great aunt, and third cousin are getting together for the yearly baking party. Family recipes that span generations are pulled out of hiding and the scent of vanilla extract fills small towns. Even more fun than baking, though, is delivering the creations to everyone in the neighborhood. Bring ‘em all to my house, please!

7. Huntsville Botanical Garden puts everyone else to shame with Galaxy of Lights.

Galaxy of Lights at Huntsville Botanical Garden is the ultimate animated Christmas light display. They’ve got everything crammed into two and a half miles: Santa, snowmen, animals, and an icicle forest. The Garden even offers discounted tickets with the donation of a canned good or cold weather accessories.

8. Magic 96.5 gives up on any music that isn’t festive.

Known as “Birmingham’s work station,” Magic 96.5 is a favorite for most. Every year, as soon as they can, they play absolutely nothing except Christmas music 24/7 until midnight on Christmas Day, and it’s perfect.

9. Christmas comes to Noccalula Falls in Gadsden.

Ride the train or walk with the whole family through the Christmas light displays at Noccalula Falls in Gadsden. Stop to visit Santa, explore the petting zoo, decorate cookies, or my personal favorite- meet the Grinch! The falls are awesome enough during the rest of the year but are just plain magic at Christmas.

10. Regions Center decks the… windows.

This display on the skyline is how Birmingham knows that Christmas is here. Regions Center came to Birmingham in 1972, and that year, the tradition was born. Individual windows shine light through colored tubes to created festive pictures on each side of the 30-story building. Depending on the angle, you can see a Christmas tree, stocking, or wreath.

11. Snow!

Just kidding, it’s still 70 degrees on Christmas! Or there’s a tornado. Who knows?

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