From the Mississippi Delta to the Gulf Coast, the state’s rich holiday traditions draw visitor’s from far and wide who yearn for a taste of illuminated nolstalgia.
CLEVELAND’S 50 NIGHTS OF LIGHTS
Many years ago, a group of ladies including Mrs. Jane Dunlap, Mrs. Clemmie Collins, and Mrs. Jo Beth Janoush coordinated with Cleveland’s downtown businesses to begin a new holiday tradition named “Light Up Your Holidays.” It began with the decorating of Cleveland’s downtown display windows with white lights and the addition of white light trees on the city’s green strip.
The lighting later expanded to include downtown rooftops and now includes over 100,000 lights.
In 2016, the Janoush Family added a beautiful 30 foot Christmas tree along with many other lighted and animated decorations. The first tree lighting ceremony brought so many people downtown to see the new decorations that a committee was formed to expand on the event, and “50 Nights of Lights” was born. Currently, the committee has developed a music-themed lighting display as a tribute to The Grammy Museum, a Candy Land theme, and a train theme at The Depot and Train Museum.
Each year, the holiday festivities kick off with a holiday open house, live music, and the tree lighting ceremony in early November. The event continues through December 31st with carriage rides, photos with Santa, outdoor family movies on the Green, a Christmas parade, a caroling pub crawl, and extended shopping hours at downtown merchants each weekend.
50 Nights of Lights runs Nov. 10 – Dec. 31. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.50nightsoflights.com.
CANTON’S LIGHTS ON THE SQUARE
From November 23 – December 23, more than 200,000 twinkling white lights illuminate Canton’s Historic Courthouse Square for its annual Christmas Festival, complete with hot cider, horse and buggy rides, and countless activities for children.
From the Victorian Festival to old-fashioned carousel rides, the magic and nostalgia of the holidays have beckoned visitors from all fifty states and many foreign countries to flock to the “The City of Lights.”
One of the crowd favorites for over 20 years are Canton’s Animation Museums, which have been completely redecorated this year. The historical museum features 135 life-sized, animated replicas of past merchants on Canton’s Historic Square; the other museum will delight youngsters with themed Christmas trees and whimsical penguins enjoying a winter day around the park.
Back this year is the interactive Christmas Village, giving children the opportunity to make reindeer food for Santa’s reindeer on Christmas Eve. Frosty will be near his igloo handing out marshmallows to roast by his fire, and Santa’s elves will pass out magical glasses that make the Christmas lights in Canton come to life in special shapes.
Throughout December, merchants around the Square offer extended holiday hours and a respite from the hectic, big-box store experience. Shoppers may stroll the sidewalks and enjoy the season, immersed in lights and holiday music, as they pop into gift shops, vintage stores and boutiques for unique items, special sales and samples.
Light and character parades on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the festival’s run enhance the family fun with a chance to meet favorite princesses, superheroes and more.
To take full advantage of the festival’s breathtaking night-time views, festival hours are 5-9 pm Nov. 23-25 & Nov. 30 – Dec. 23. Light and character parades are at 6:30 pm and 8 pm each Friday and Saturday night throughout the festival’s run. For more information on this and other events, visit www.cantontourism.com.
GULFPORT’S FLOATING PARADE
A unique Christmas lighting display can be found in Gulfport, Mississippi, where boats helmed by festive Santas are adorned with elaborate displays of lights, inflatables, trees, and other holiday decorations.
Scheduled the second weekend in December, the first annual Christmas on the Bayou parade took place in December 2000 following the creation of the Bayou Bernard Boating Club and was the brain child of Craig Nicholls. Completely organized and presented by neighborhood volunteers and community donors, Christmas On The Bayou has grown from fewer than twenty decorated boats to over seventy, and it has received regional accolades from various tourism organizations.
The view of the creatively illuminated boats is a dazzling sight, but the show isn’t limited to just watercraft. In addition to the Parade, onlookers are also treated to show-stopping waterfront homes competing to be named the Parade Captain’s “Best House on the Bayou” and the chance to serve as parade judges. Home owners all along the route schedule their annual Christmas parties on the night of the parade and often decorate the back (water facing) side of their homes more elaborately than the front.
The City of Gulfport erects bleacher seating for public viewing from three Gulfport Lake boat launches/parks and at the foot of the Cowan Lorraine Bridge (Kremer’s Landing) with additional viewing from area restaurants including The Blow Fly Inn. “It is a fun family event, and we have several people bring campers and park at boat launches to claim spots to watch us go by,” said former Director of Christmas On The Bayou, Jack Wittmann. “Kremer Landing is one of the most popular spots where people line the bank for over a hundred yards with family and friends. It has become such a popular event that we have people trailer their boats from Louisiana and Alabama to participate.”
For more information, visit the event website at www.christmasonthebayou.org.