I love reading Christmas stories and like many of you I buy them in bulk during the Holiday. I think we all enjoy experiencing Christmas through other families and the traditions they hold dear. When I married into a large family – mine consisted of parents and one brother – I was introduced to a new range of traditions. As I started to plot out this Christmas book I wanted to look at what traditions mean to different people. Some traditions are sweet, some are sentimental, some are even silly, but they all hold an honored place in a family. Tampering with those beloved traditions can trigger a storm of emotions.
When I was coming up with the various events for the heroine to introduce to my fictional town of Dover, aka Do Over, Mississippi, I knew I had to start with the annual Victorian Christmas lights display from the town that serves as my inspiration for Dover— Canton, Mississippi. The charming 19th century town is exactly like you’d picture with a stately courthouse in the middle of town surrounded by a park and flanked on all side with brick buildings housing with their charming facades. Canton has been the location for several Hollywood movies from My Dog Skip to O Brother Where art Thou, and A Time To Kill, but it’s also known for its display of lights and holiday events each weekend in December. http://www.cantontourism.com/christmas.html
I also drew inspiration from the massive Christmas lights display in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Billed as one of the top ten Christmas attractions in the South, it is a truly inspiring sight. Situated on the banks of the Cane River in central Louisiana, the event consists of millions of dazzling lights on buildings, bridges, roads, boats, and every tree and shrub available. The banks of the river are lined with displays all reflecting in the water. But the best part is to be there the night they turn on the lights for the first time. All the normal lights in town go dark. For a few moments the crowd waits in expectant silence. Then in a flash the entire town and river bank is flooded in lights. It’s a spectacular sight. If you’ve seen the movie Steele Magnolia’s then you’ve had a glimpse of the real festival. I’ll post a link at the end for you to go and visit the real thing. http://www.christmasfestival.com/
In the book, the hero wanted everything to stay the same because that’s the way it always been done and he finds comfort in the familiar. But the heroine has been hired to beef up the decorations to draw in visitors and help the struggling economy of the small town. Gemma sees ways to keep the old traditions that have deep meaning, but also introduce new and exciting ways to not only celebrate the Christmas season, but get the community involved in the events.
My family didn’t have any long held traditions, but my husband’s family had one that we continue. Christmas Eve is Sloppy Joe night. When I asked my mother-in-law about it she said it was a matter of convenience. With seven kids and decorating the tree on Christmas Eve it, was the easiest way to feed the brood and have time to trim the tree. Whatever the origin, when my grown up sons and their families arrive in town they look forward to eating Sloppy Joes.
What unique and fun traditions does your family have?
Wishing Y’all a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas.