7 Alabama Holiday Traditions to Your Winter Calendar

7 Alabama Holiday Traditions To Add To Your Winter Calendar

Posted at Wed, Dec 13, 2023 9:15 AM

Add These 7 Alabama Holiday Traditions to Your Winter Calendar

Traditions. Not to go all Tevye on you, but they’re kind of a big deal. 

That’s especially true during the holidays — the time of year when families come together to eat good food, exchange gifts and (mostly) avoid squabbling in the name of December goodwill.

A lot of those traditions happen under your roof. Decorating the tree. Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Baking cookies shaped like bells and angels.

Add to your home-y habits by visiting our list of annual holiday events and Yuletide spots in Alabama. You’ll have to hop into the car to get there, but the wintertime spirit is well worth the mileage.

After all, we at Mullinax Ford of Mobile might dare to say the time spent with family on the way to these Yuletide spots is as much a holiday tradition as the memories you’ll make upon arrival. (And if you pass by our dealership on your travels, be sure to stop by and visit our elves — sorry, friendly sales representatives.)

Blast some carols through the car speakers and find your family’s new favorite holiday tradition. There’s no time like the “present.”

Tinsel Trail

Nothing beats walking in a winter wonderland.

If you want to enjoy Alabama’s fleeting weeks of winter weather while getting into the holiday spirit, Big Spring Park’s Tinsel Trail in downtown Huntsville, is the perfect place to stretch your legs and boost your spirits.

For over a decade, Downtown Huntsville, a non-profit organization that promotes the city’s commercial core, has decorated the park from late November to late December with a forest of live Christmas trees, each reserved and decorated by a local business or family.

Tinsel Trail features more than 400 trees through which you can stroll for free, 24/7, throughout the season.

Stay up-to-date with the Downtown Huntsville website so you won’t miss park events throughout the holidays, from coffee pop-up shops to live music.

Prattville Ice Skating Rink

Ice skating on the banks of a creek. Lights from a Christmas tree glistening overhead. Wind in your hair.

No, we’re not talking about Rockefeller Center. We’re talking about 1,000 miles south, where Pratville’s Spillway Park offers ice skating to Alabamians looking for their new favorite holiday tradition.

The rink is open nightly throughout December. For a small admission cost, you’ll get a pair of skates — because let’s face it, Alabamians probably don’t have their own ice skates sitting in the closet — and 30 minutes of wintertime fun.

Falling down is likely, but having fun is guaranteed. Add a post-skating snack at the slew of nearby food trucks and you’re set up for a scene straight from a Hallmark Christmas movie.

MoonPie over Mobile

Since 2008, Mobile’s lowering of a 600-pound, 12-foot electric MoonPie for New Year’s Eve has brought a new meaning to “pie in the sky.”

Drawing on the city’s Mardi Gras culture (the marshmallow-graham goodie has been thrown from parade floats for over 60 years), this 50,000-attendee celebration will ensure that you ring in the new years in a gloriously calorie-dense fashion.

Adult beverages will be available, but so will bounce houses and crafts in the Kids Zone and even a special kiddo-focused MoonPie drop at noon, so don’t hesitate to bring the whole family.

Before the big event at midnight, grab a piece of the World’s Largest MoonPie at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel and jam to headliners like Yo-Yo and Slick Rick at the event’s main stage.

Audubon Christmas Bird Count

We hope you’re holding onto your binoculars, because this Christmastime opportunity will shake you in your winter boots.

From mid-December to early January, bird lovers of all ages and birding experience levels across the country can try their hand as counters in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count.

In true season-of-giving spirit, participation is both easy and free. Just take a look at the site map to find bird-counting circles in your area — there are several in Alabama, including in Birmingham, Montgomery and Gulf Shores. Then, reach out to your circle’s “compiler,” an expert birder who will train you in how to collect data and schedule you for a bird-watching day.

On your scheduled day, you’ll head out to your circle with binoculars and boots to wind a specific route through a 15-mile radius, counting all the birds you see or hear. 

And the partridge on top of the Audubon pear tree? The data you collect could be used in wildlife publications and even government reports. We’ll flap to that.

Fresh Air Family’s Wacky Tacky Light Tour

The looking-at-holiday-lights family car trip is an annual necessity. 

Book tickets on Wacky Tacky Light Tour’s two-hour guided tour of Birmingham’s boldest holiday displays and you can join the holiday tradition without mom or dad having to stay behind the wheel. 

You don’t want to miss out on the jolliest houses Alabama has to offer — from the Hanukkah House to Dueling Neighbors to Star Wars Christmas. Reserve your family’s spot on the tour bus for one of several dates scheduled throughout the holiday season. Looking for some extra leg room? You can also book a private bus for yourself and your loved ones to light-gaze solo.

The most holiday-tastic part of all? All tickets and donation revenue go to the Fresh Air Family’s Gross Out Camp Scholarship Fund. By taking the tour, you’ll be helping local children attend an award-winning summer camp where they can focus on learning and being children.

It’s a wintertime win-win.

Chabad of Alabama Menorah Lightings

No matter where you live in the Birmingham area, the state’s Chabad center is determined to bring the Chanukah spirit to you.

With Menorah lightings in Birmingham, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Vestavia and more, you have plenty of opportunities to enjoy a night of music, donuts and community. Or, visit multiple lightings — they range from the first to last night of Chanukah, so you can seek as many free latkes as your holiday heart desires.

Chabad of Alabama’s Menorah-lighting celebrations are a time-honored tradition, but the coronavirus pandemic also ushered in a new holiday ritual: the Car Menorah Parade.

Chabad of Alabama’s parade will begin in Birmingham and end at Vestavia Hills. You can enter your car for a small fee — in exchange, you’ll receive a magnetic car menorah or Chanukah flag — or sit back and enjoy the lights as a spectator.

Whether by lighting menorahs or watching them drive the streets of Alabama, your family will love Chabad of Alabama’s slew of Chanukah traditions.

Gulf Shores Christmas Lighted Boat Parade

Sugar-plum-spice up your holidays by getting in your holiday parade fix, aquatic-style. 

Lulu’s Lighted Boat Parade, which winds from Lulu’s Gulf Shores and Homeport Marina toward The Wharf in Orange Beach, is a guaranteed magical night on the Waterway Village.

Arrive early and grab a spot at one of Lulu’s tables for prime boat-viewing, or set up along the canal from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach to watch the festive group of decked-out decks parade the waterways. 

The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without a promise of presents, so Lulu’s offers $25 gift cards to the first 20 boats registered – and registration is open up until the parade itself. If you are a spectator this year, that’s ok – sign up early next year to be a seafaring Santa yourself.

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