Holiday Fun Houston Style

December 1, 2005 by  
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Houstonians have many holiday traditions, especially with the various art venues and holiday activities occurring all over town. While some traditions were established decades ago, others emerged in recent years. Whatever each family’s traditions may be, they serve to remind us the holiday season has arrived.

Don’t be a Scrooge
Each year, families all over Houston gather at the Alley Theatre to enjoy “A Christmas Carol,” the Charles Dickens favorite that reminds everyone of the true spirit of Christmas. Both young and old love this timeless story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge’s night filled with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Its universal message of compassion and love is a wonderful addition to any family’s holiday traditions. This year’s production, adapted by Michael Wilson, promises to be an amusing musical retelling of the enduring classic. This must-see production will run through Dec. 28 on the Hubbard Stage at the Alley Theatre.

Magical dreaming
For an evening of sweet delight during the holiday season, Houston families flock to the Houston Ballet for a breathtaking rendition of “The Nutcracker,” the beloved holiday favorite. Children and adults will cherish this classic tale of Clara and her nutcracker prince in the Land of Snow and the Kingdom of Sweets. The whole family is sure to be thrilled by the expansive special effects, including a “growing” Christmas tree, 200 pounds of falling “snow” and a cannon being fired on stage. Families can enjoy this holiday tradition through Dec. 26 at the Houston Ballet.

Light up the season
A more recent family tradition for Houstonians is the Holiday Lights celebration in Hermann Park, where a mile of the park around the Mark Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool and McGovern Lake is illuminated with holiday lights. This spectacular display has quickly become a family favorite with specially lit pedal boats, horse-drawn carriage rides and an array of nightly entertainment. This year’s event will also feature the first-ever Holiday Market in conjunction with the Holiday Lights, as well as a tent with wine, beer and cakes from Dessert Gallery. There will surely be something for the entire family at this holiday event, open through Dec. 26 for free at Hermann Park.

On the boardwalk
Many local families make the short drive to Kemah for the perfect family outing, the Christmas Boat Lane Parade. This will be the 44th year of the spectacular parade that has lit up the night along the Kemah Boardwalk, much to the delight of spectators. With many unique holiday displays aboard more than 100 local boats, this one-of-a-kind parade is a holiday favorite that the whole family can enjoy. Locals covet the awards given out for Most Beautiful, Most Creative and Best Overall floats. Many families make a day of it along the coast and visit the many restaurants and shops along the Kemah boardwalk. This year’s event will take place Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. (the best view is from the boardwalk!)

Sounds of the season
To experience the many sounds of the holidays, countless Houston families turn to the Houston Symphony. Each year, the symphony provides holiday music to set the mood for the season. This year is no different, with the Houston Symphony’s Holidays Around the World, featuring holiday musical traditions from the Ukraine to Israel, Germany to Mexico, and let’s not forget our own holiday music from the United States. “Only Santa covers this much ground in a single hour!” The Houston Symphony always delivers wonderful holiday music that gets us in the spirit of the season!

Old time shopping
For an old-fashioned holiday shopping experience, locals flock to Old Town Spring during Down Home Christmas. With the many shops fully decorated with holiday cheer and specials galore, this is a shopping experience Houston families treat themselves to year after year. Houstonians of all ages love to wander around this quaint market town to find the perfect gift for that someone special (and the rest of the family, too!). Whether you’re shopping for a wine enthusiast or a cowboy, the kids or your pets; Old Town Spring has got a shop for you.

Illuminate the streets
Each year, Houstonians fill the streets for the Woodland Heights premiere annual event, Lights in the Heights. Hundreds of luminaria line the route, which travels down Bayland Avenue and Highland Street. Visitors are welcomed with cookies, punch and wassail as the entire neighborhood comes out to greet them. The kids love the visit from Santa; he usually arrives around 7 p.m. on the Norhill Street Esplanade. Another crowd favorite is the carriage rides, available along the route (there is a fee involved). Carolers and live musicians can be found on the streets to provide the songs of the season. This holiday tradition is complete with festive T-shirts for sale to help fund the event. This year’s celebration takes place on Saturday, Dec. 10 from 6-9 p.m.

On the big screen
The holiday films “A Christmas Story” and “White Christmas” are popular holiday traditions with Houstonians. This year, Houston families can experience these holiday favorites on the big screen at Miller Outdoor Theatre (for free!). The comedic “A Christmas Story” will be presented on Dec. 9-10, at 7 p.m. with the young boy’s dreams of getting a Red Ryder BB gun on Christmas morning. The musical heart-warmer “White Christmas,” featuring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Cloony, can be seen Dec. 16-17 at 7 p.m.

Sing, dance and be merry
For local families seeking fun holiday entertainment, turn to Revels! This year?s event, entitled “The Christmas Revels 2005 – A French Canadian Celebration,” follows voyagers traveling through French Canada trying to get home for the winter solstice celebration. The performance blends song, dance and drama to create an exceptional event in which the audience can participate by singing along and dancing (sometimes audience members become on-stage participants). The performance will also feature the traditional Morris dances, Mummers play and a dedication performance of “The Lord of the Dance.” This year’s event will take place on Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18 at Moore’s Opera House.

Heritage during the holidays
From Dec. 26-Jan. 1, Houstonians celebrate African American cultural festival, Kwanza, throughout the town. This seven-day festival begins with a gathering to celebrate unity within the community on Dec. 26 and continues with area celebrations throughout Houston. Each day is dedicated to a specific principle: unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, creativity and faith. One candle on a seven-branched candelabrum is lit every day; gifts are given; and there is a karamu, or African feast. Each celebration will feature an African market and children’s Kwanzaa activities. (713) 521-0629,

Lighten up
Though it’s a more recent tradition, the Moody Gardens Festival of Lights is quickly becoming a beloved holiday event. This is the fourth year Moody Gardens will come alive with more than a million lights throughout the grounds. The outdoor ice rink gives kids and adults alike the chance to put on a pair of skates and slide across the ice. (A rarity in Texas!) Local choirs and bands delight visitors with holiday music while they enjoy the beautiful scenery.

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