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Happy Holidays Alabama Gulf Coast!

A fun and informative guide to the holiday season on the Alabama Gulf Coast in 2023.

I love the holiday season on the Alabama gulf coast. It's a special time of year for many people in many places, but some of our traditions here are unique. This article is dedicated to sharing information about some of the great traditions here on the gulf coast. My list is by no means comprehensive. This momma only has so much time in a day! There are many other great holiday events and traditions in our region. But because of my background, this holiday post leans heavily toward Christian Advent, Christmas, and American Alabama gulf coast traditions in the greater Mobile area. I hope you enjoy and learn something that you didn’t know!


Quick Links




 

The Lights


As the seasons change, and our days shift toward more darkness than light, the Christmas light displays are one of my favorite parts of the season. My favorite lights are the small, expertly hung, white lights. I think you will see that reflected in my choice of holiday light displays below.


Don’t get me wrong, I love a good ole gaudy light display as much as the next guy. My husband will intentionally decorate both the inside and outside our home with the tackiest light sets he can find. And I let him, because who am I to steal his joy? But this is my blog, and here are my picks for the season.


Fairhope’s Annual Lighting of the Trees Celebration was one of my favorite events of the year. There was hot chocolate in the cold (most years!). And the relative darkness broken by beautiful light always made me feel hopeful and excited for Christmas.


The Bellingrath Magic Christmas in Lights is a special walking tour over the grounds of the estate after dark. It will take you about an hour to walk the path, and see over 3 million lights. There is something new to see around every turn. They offer pictures with Santa on the nights before Christmas. They offer hot chocolate and refreshments for sale. Last year, we even roasted smores over a fire pit on the grounds! My littles loved it.


The last one is not really an event per se, but as an adult, one of my favorite holiday light displays is in front of Springhill hospital. It is simply beautiful. When I’m driving home after dark over the holiday season, just driving by makes me smile.


Lots of our local municipalities have tree lighting events. Check out the schedule below!


The Tree


Growing up, we always got our Christmas tree at Fish River Trees, a 40 acre tree farm in Summerdale. We would grab a hand saw and walk for what seemed like miles to find our “perfect tree,” and then take turns with the saw. I haven’t been since I was young. Now, apparently it is a whole event. They have live animal Manger Scene, camel and pony rides, miniature train rides, and visits with Santa. I think I see a trip in our near future.


As an adult, I have a special place in my heart for the Optimist Club Christmas Tree Lot. It is super convenient, efficient, and the trees are beautiful. The proceeds benefit the local Boys and Girls Clubs and other youth programs in Mobile. It has a new location this year! According to Facebook, Ms. Margaret Olive, the owner of Butch Cassidy’s cafe, has donated the space for this year. It will be in the empty lot at the corner of Florida and Old Shell Road. So, pick a day to grab the best burger in Mobile at Butch Cassidy's, treat the kiddos with an ice cream from Old Dutch, and pick a great tree at the Optimist tree lot. Sounds like a great new tradition.


The Arts


In my humble opinion, nothing feels more like holiday arts than the Nutcracker. I have always loved it. Luckily, my daughter loves it too, and I get to watch it every season (sometimes just on TV). But here are six opportunities to watch our fabulous local academies perform the holiday classic.


Classical Ballet of Mobile will be performing the Nutcracker December 2cd and 3rd in the Lois Jean Delaney Auditorium at Murphy High School. If you haven’t seen the auditorium since the 2012 Christmas tornado and subsequent renovations, you should really check it out. I love this organization’s commitment to both dance and the growth and development of each dancer.


Mobile Ballet will be performing the Nutcracker four times over the weekend of December 8-10. The performances will feature professional guest artists and several of the shows have a live orchestra. They are also offering a special event, The Nutcracker Tea, before the December 10th matinee performance.


The Mobile Symphony Orchestra will be performing a special concert with the Mobile Singing Children at Saenger Theater on December 16 and 17. I think the title of the concert says it all: Holiday Classics!


The LODA ArtWalks in downtown Mobile leading up to Christmas are some of the best during the year. The temperature is perfect to meander through the shops, vendors, and venues. And it is a great place to start shopping, which brings us to our next topic.


The Shopping


Yes, a fair amount of us do some Amazon, super center, and mall shopping every year to get the exact gifts that you wanted for those special people on your list. But a lot of times, for me anyway, there are big holes on the list. What am I going to get this person? Or the thing that I wanted for this person is small, and I want something to go with it. The holiday market events are a perfect opportunity to support local artists, crafters, and business people while completing your Christmas list.


The 39th Annual Junior League of Mobile Christmas Jubilee is a great opportunity to start shopping early while supporting the Junior League! This organization provides direct support to children and education in our local communities. The event will be held November 10-12 in the Mobile Convention Center.


Fairhope's Annual Christmas Open House will be November 19th from 1-5PM in downtown Fairhope. This event has been held for more than 50 years! As a middle schooler, it was always one of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season. The shops in Fairhope are beautiful, and it is always fun to be invited in with a treat or a cider.


A Holiday Market in the Gardens will be held again at the Mobile Botanical Gardens December 1-2. There is a sign posted in the park on Museum Drive, so it must be true!


The Parades


I love a parade on the gulf coast. The bands. The dancers. And the floats (or trailers!) of course. Parades are just “happy.” The people in the parades are happy, crowds are cheering, and kids are dancing and jumping around. It’s infectious. People on the gulf coast just know what to do at a parade. The Christmas parades have a distinct flavor. The individuals in the parades are often local civic organizations, boy and girl scout troops, dance and performance studios, and local business people.


Fairhope’s Magical Christmas Parade will be held Friday, December 1st at 7pm in downtown Fairhope. The Fairhope lights are a beautiful backdrop to this fun family evening event.


The Daphne Christmas Parade is a great event in the middle of the day. Perfect for my little ones. This year it will be December 2cd at 11am. I love watching the tiny dancers walk or skip down Main Street. Per tradition, do not start to leave when you see the fire truck coming at the end of the parade. Santa rides the fire truck!


There are lots of parades in the Mobile-area too. Saraland Christmas Parade is Saturday, December 9th.


Boat parades! I honestly didn’t know that this was “a thing” until I was in high school, and I was invited by some Mobile county “river people” to experience the event. It was fabulous. Christmas lights reflecting off the water are a beautiful and unique experience. See the full list in the schedule below.


The Citrus


I am not sure that everyone thinks “citrus” when they think of Christmas, but I do. Growing up on the Alabama Gulf Coast, fresh satsumas were one of my favorite parts of the season. I love eating them right off the tree or farm. I even wrote an entire blog about Gulf Coast satsumas! We grow some in the backyard, but here are some places that you can pick or pick-up fresh Satsumas:

  • Southern Orchards, Mobile, Alabama

  • Harrison Farms, Fairhope Alabama

The Races


I feel a sort of obligation to mention and encourage! the holiday races. For those of you that know my husband and I peripherally, you might assume that we are 5K people. We are not. We are sit-on-our-front-porch-and-drink-coffee-and-cheer-on-the-road-runners kind of people. We were both sprinters in our youth, and interval training is more our speed. In fact, some of my favorite holiday memes are those associated with the “holiday race” people.


But I do like the idea of the holiday races. So, here are two that I love the “idea of” 😂


The 14th Annual Turkey Trot for Hope will be held Thanksgiving morning starting at the Mardi Gras Park. This charity run supports Rapahope programming for children with cancer. They even have a “Stay in Bed” division where you can support the cause from the comfort of your home.


The Santa Run at Carpe Diem is a fun charity run where many participants sport their Santa attire. The event supports a different charity each year in honor of the previous owners. Historically, it was held on the morning of Christmas Eve, but more recently it moved to the weekend before Christmas.


And The Reason for the Season

Lastly, and most importantly, we remember the reason for the season. Add your church, place of worship, or community’s charities, events, and services to your busy holiday schedules. Luckily, there are just too many on the Alabama Gulf Coast area to list them all.


If you have ever been interested in the Catholic church, Christmas is an excellent time to come celebrate with us. Catholic means universal after all. Most churches have a “Children’s Mass” or family mass between 4-6pm on Christmas Eve, and several have a special midnight mass that are traditionally low light or heavily lit by candle on Christmas Eve in addition to Christmas day masses. The churches are typically meticulously decorated by the ladies' sodalities (think sorority, but the concept predates sororities by about 1200 years). The websites are well maintained, and will tell you everything you need to know.


I never make all of the holiday events that I would like. Some years, I don't make any of them. When I'm having a particularly difficult year, the holidays can feel like extra work. One of those years, I didn't even feel like putting up a tree. So my husband took my toddler to get a tree at the Ann Street Optimist Club/Boys and Girls Club lot. It was late in the season and picked over, so he thought it would be fitting or iconic in some way to get the worst one left on the lot. A Charlie Brown Christmas tree. He knew that I would get it. And of course, my toddler didn't know any better and was extremely proud of her tree. So now, it is one of my favorite Christmas memories. The love and sensitivity of my husband. The joy of my child. And the beauty of Christmas.


I wish you all the hope, joy, and peace in this holiday season.


And now, what you have all been waiting for...


The Schedule


2023 Dates

EVENT

November 10-12

Christmas Jubilee by The Junior League of Mobile @ Mobile Convention Center

Link: https://www.juniorleaguemobile.org/christmas-jubilee-2023/

November 16

Fairhope’s Annual Lighting of the Trees @ Downtown Fairhope

November 17

City of Mobile’s Lighting of the Tree @ Mardi Gras Park

November 17- December TBA

Mobile Optimist Club Christmas Trees @ Old Shell Road and Florida Street

November 18- December 23

Christmas Tree Farm @ Fish River Trees (Open daily except Thanksgiving Day)

Link: https://www.fishrivertrees.com/

November 19

Fairhope’s Christmas Open House @ Downtown Fairhope

November 23

14th Annual Turkey Trot for Hope @ Mardi Gras Park

Link: https://raceroster.com/events/2023/78140/turkey-trot-for-hope

November 24-

January 3

Magic Christmas in Lights @ Bellingrath Gardens & Home

Link: https://bellingrath.org/experiences/events/magic-christmas/

December 1-2

A Holiday Market in the Gardens @ Mobile Botanical Gardens

December 1: 7pm

Fairhope’s Magical Christmas Parade @ Downtown Fairhope

December 2: 1030am

Southwest Mobile County Christmas Parade @ Tillmans Corner Carol Plantation Road

December 8

ArtWalk Mobile Alabama @ Downtown Mobile Alabama

Link: https://mobilearts.org/art-walk/

December 8-10

The Nutcracker by Mobile Ballet @ Mobile Civic Center Theater

Link: https://mobileballet.org/performances/

December 9

Saraland’s 55th Annual Christmas Parade @ Along Hwy 43

December 9

11th Annual Dawes Christmas Parade

Link: https://surgechurch.tv/christmas-parade

December 9

Holiday Market & Open House @ Mobile Museum of Art

Link: https://www.mobilemuseumofart.com/event/holiday-market-open-house/

December 9: 1-6pm

Semmes Christmas Tour & Shop Hop @ City of Semmes Hall

December 16: 8-12pm

Breakfast with Santa @ The Nix Center Fairhope

December 16: 730PM

Mobile Symphany Orchestra’s Holiday Classics! With Mobile’s Singing Children

Link: https://mobilesymphony.org/events

TBA

Bayou La Batre: Lighted Boat Parade

TBA

Christmas on the River (Dog River)

TBA

Dauphin Island POA Christmas Boat Parade

TBA

Santa Run @ Carpe Diem Mobile


Check back as the season progresses. I will be updating this page!

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