Christmas time is almost here again, folks, and in Texas that doesn’t really mean what it means in other states. Unlike most other states, Texas is warm and often sunny during the winter holiday. Although the weather isn’t the only unique part of Christmas in Texas. These unique Texas Christmas traditions come from the state’s melting pot of cultures that makes up the state’s diverse population.
In Highland Park on Armstrong Parkway, west of Preston Road, there’s an old pecan tree that Dallasites enjoy decorating every year. The tradition started in 1927, and has continued for the ensuing 90 years (except during World War II and the 1973 energy crisis). It takes four men almost a week to deck out the tree with over 5,000 lights. The lighting is always an event, and includes with snacks, caroling and an appearance from Santa.
Luminarias are a traditional Texan decoration that comes in many forms. The classic way to make a luminaria is to put a candle in a paper bag. However, most people now use Christmas lights or battery-powered tea lights. You can even make luminarias out of old, plastic milk jugs if you’re really classy.
What better way to use leftover barbed wire than to stick a bow on it and hang it on your front door? It’s already coiled up anyway. Boom. Instant Texan Christmas cheer. Just don’t drop it on your foot.
In the Gulf Coast city of Corpus Christi, you might not get a white Christmas (although they did in 2004), but you can see Christmas lights float by on the water at the Illuminated Boat Parade as part of the Harbor Lights Festival which takes place every year in early December.
Many people celebrate Christmas by attending mass, but in San Antonio, you can do it at one of four historic Texas mission churches like Sam Houston might have done. Mission Concepción, Mission San José, Mission San Juan, and Mission Espada are some of the oldest buildings in Texas, and still have active congregations.
Across the state this time of year you can find pickup trucks decorated with wreaths, antlers and even Christmas lights. Several cities host pickup truck parades, or Christmas parades that feature lighted trucks. It’s an impressive sight.
Tamales are delicious any time of year, but they’re a traditional Texan holiday food. You can get them at a restaurant or a grocery store, but the best ones are going to be made by someone’s grandma. Most Texans fit into one of two categories: they know how to make tamales, or they know where to buy homemade tamales.
Each year the cedar trees that line Loop 360 get a special treatment: they get to be a Christmas tree without getting cut down. The same trees that cause Austinites to break out into sneezing fits from their murderous pollen explosions are lovingly decorated by local families. They also do this on FM1431 in Cedar Park. It’s important to remember though, that if you decorate a tree, you need to go back and undecorate it so as not to leave litter on the ground.
Each year in December the port city of Galveston turns into a Dickensonian dream world. Gas lamps are lit, horse-drawn carriages abound, and characters straight out of A Christmas Carol line the streets in full Victorian dress. It’s an annual event called Dickens on the Strand, and it’s a beloved, if odd, Texan Christmas tradition.
Though Christmas pyramids may be a common tradition in Germany, they’re relatively unknown here in the U.S. A weihnachtspyramide (that’s German for “Christmas pyramid”) is a tiered wooden tower adorned with nativity figures with a ring of candles at the top that are lit. The heat from the candles turns a windmill on the top of the tower, and causes the figures to rotate. In Fredericksburg, they have a Weihnachtspyramide that is 26 feet tall. Fredericksburg’s Christmas pyramid is the only one of its kind in the U.S. and was shipped here from Germany.