By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday are freshly in the rearview mirror of 2018.
Now we are immersed in the Holiday Season 2018. Christmas parades, office parties and seasonal galas are just around the corner. These are clear signs Christmas are near.
As a native, lifelong Memphian, I look forward to certain traditions in the Bluff City and surrounding areas. From sights, sounds and spiritual gatherings, many things assist in my holiday experience each year.
Those who live in or visit the 901 know it is Christmas in Memphis if … The Best Sellers’ List this week will focus on my favorite 10 things that let you know it is Christmas in Memphis.
10. Holiday Wonders at Memphis Botanic Garden
If you need a spot to create your Christmas card for next year, Holiday Wonders at Memphis Botanic Garden is the perfect place. Other reasons to swing by the Botanic Garden this holiday season are Snowy Nights, Trees Alight, City of Memphis Christmas Tree, Winter Wonderland Engagement/Proposals Area, holiday party venues and TruGreen Under the Stars Outdoor Lounge. Holiday Wonders at the Garden opened Nov. 23 and runs (select nights) through Dec. 30. So if you’re in East Memphis over the next month, pop in and enjoy man-controlled snow, holiday crafts and beautiful lights.
9. Zoo Lights
The good people at Sun Trust Bank are sponsoring this Memphis tradition. The Zoo Lights kicked off Nov. 16 and will continue through Dec. 30 on select nights. The thing that separates Zoo Lights from all other area traditions with a Christmas theme are the lights. With nearly a million lights throughout the Memphis Zoo, children of all ages will have their hearts captured by the festivities.
To go along with the display this year, there will be the singing Christmas trees, free tram rides, children’s crafts, free CHINA Carousel, a visit with Santa and animals on exhibit in the Aquarium, Herpetarium, Once Upon A Farm and Animals of the Night.
8. Salvation Army Red Kettle
Contrary to popular belief, the Salvation Army Red Kettle didn’t start in Memphis. As we prepare to shop for goodies and must-have material, the man or woman ringing the bell reminds to be humble. There are many less fortunate out there and need some assistance just to make it from day to day.
The Kettle was started in 1891 in San Francisco, by Salvation Army officer Captain Joseph McFee. Captain McFee, resolving to provide a free Christmas dinner to the poor of San Francisco, remembered a sight he saw in Liverpool, England. The kettle – and McFee’s call of “Keep the Pot Boiling!”
So make sure you have some extra change as you walk out of Walmart, Target or Kroger.
7. Christmas at the Peabody
The legendary Peabody Hotel in Downtown Memphis can be described this way. But those two words definitely apply to the lobby of the historic venue throughout December. The Peabody transforms into a magical Christmas palace. Here is a breakdown of the layout: The Lobby Bar, lobby and mezzanine level are covered in Christmas trees. Along with the huge Christmas trees in the bar area, they are joined by gingerbread creations, more trees and lights.
The Peabody Gingerbread Village is created from with real flour, eggs, sugar and candy. During the month, area high school bands and choirs perform during the morning duck march.
6. Graceland Christmas Lights
One of the earliest signs of Christmas in Memphis, the arrival of cold weather means the lights are coming on at Graceland. In the Whitehaven area of Memphis, the centerpiece of the holiday season is Elvis Presley’s Graceland. This year the lightning ceremony was held Nov. 15 and the display will rest on the King’s birthday of Jan. 8, 2019.
This year’s Graceland Lighting Ceremony was extra special with Country music performers Scotty McCreery and Marty Stuart flipping on the switch on Graceland’s traditional Christmas lights. The 2018 event also featured the new Hallmark Original Movie, “Christmas at Graceland.”
So a Christmas with the King can come to your home via the network. And all Memphians should make room for a Blue Christmas.
5. Germantown Parkway gridlock
Our city still has four traditional malls with the Wolfchase, Hickory Ridge, Oak Court and Graceland Plaza. And the new trend of outdoor malls are sweeping the suburbs. But most people in the 901 will venture to Germantown Parkway over the next few weeks to shop for Christmas.
Just be prepared to get stuck in traffic at one of the 200 traffic lights along the road. We get plenty of practice on the weekends throughout the year, but December will bring a daily traffic challenge.
You will get trapped in the middle of an intersection with the traffic signal changing colors.
So here is my advice on handling this necessary evil: 1. Have an exit plan. (Always know how you are going to leave a store. Try to get to a traffic light if possible.) 2. Make as many right turns as possible. And 3. Be patient.
4. Springdale Neighborhood Lights
I’m sure many neighborhoods across Shelby County have collective traditions. When neighbors come together and exercise cohesion, it is beauty for all motorists to see. Growing up in Frayser, my mom would take us to our Grandma Minnie’s house for a visit and Christmas snack. Then as we returned from through North Memphis, Mom, my sister Sha and I would spot the bright white lights of a U-shaped street in the neighborhood. Right off Springdale are about 30 homes that were all decorated with a foundation of white lights. Then you added some color, holiday themes and lawn displays. It was so beautiful to my 6-year-old eyes.
Fast forward 30 years, a lot of the homes are no longer coated in lights. And many of the lawns are crowded by inflatable displays. It might be a shell of the grand display from that neighborhood, but some are still fighting to keep the tradition alive.
3. Starry Nights
Shelby Farms is the destination for many cars, vans and buses throughout late November and December. Starry Nights is a great way to spend a holiday night with the family or that special somebody. Grab $20 and someone you love … make that as many that can fit in the vehicle and enjoy the display of lights. Starry Nights, presented by International Paper, is a family-friendly holiday experience with drive-through and walking trails of lights and displays plus magical Mistletoe Village. Starry Nights is the largest annual fundraiser for the Park, and it’s a holiday tradition for thousands of families.
Shelby Farms is such an important part of the city that giving money to this wonderful tradition for a worthy cause is a win-win.
2. 104.5 Christmas music
The day after Thanksgiving means one thing. Nope, not Black Friday. It’s Christmas in Memphis with 104.5 The River playing nonstop holiday music. If you are visiting any of the previous places mentioned or are stuck in traffic along Germantown Parkway, flip the dial to 104.5.
The station is perfect for those occasions. In addition, the playlist is ideal for Christmas parties, family gatherings and office shindigs.
Now other stations will mix in some holiday themed jams and there is always a competitor challenging 104.5 by playing continuous Christmas music. But when you think “Christmas in Memphis” you have to go to The River.
1. First Tennessee Bank’s holiday lights
Memphis is home and I love my home. So if somebody is visiting the M-Town and they are near Downtown, the Christmas lights on the First Tennessee Bank tower are the perfect welcome.
The First Tennessee building is lit up on two sides each year with a green Christmas tree on one side, and with a red bell on the other side. As you travel along the interstate, Second Street or under the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, you will see that timely display.
That tree and bell bring to mind memories of visiting my Grandma Helen, seeing my Aunt Net, checking in on Aunt Ruth or sharing a holiday moment with so many family members across the city.
The visuals of the tower’s tree and bell were the ideal way to end my day before heading home waiting on Santa to visit Dec. 24.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for Journal West 10 Media LLC. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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