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Christmas ACROSS THE STATE.

November and December bring bustling holiday activity in communities all around Mississippi. Shopping open houses and parades, church pageants and ceremonies, lights and garlands--the spirit of Christmas brightens busy street corners in our biggest cities while inspiring a sense of community in our smallest towns. Very often, Christmas brings out the best in all of us, whether it is because we are busy thinking about what we can do to help out others or because our attention is focused on reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas, people seem to have an extra sparkle in their eye and bounce to their step during the weeks before this holiday. If, during this Christmas season, you find yourself wondering where you can take your family for some holiday fun, pick a place on the map and call the Convention and Visitors Bureau to find out how their town celebrates this time of year. We all have some standard holiday traditions, but be adventurous; branch out; visit somewhere you've never been! To give you a head start, we have compiled the following guide, beginning in the north in DeSoto County and moving our way down to the Gulf Coast. Many bureaus did not have Christmas information available at press time, so we are sure there are many more holiday activities not included in our list. Also, dates and times are subject to change, so please double check before making your plans.

DeSoto County

The annual Horn Lake Christmas Parade just keeps growing and is now the largest parade in the Mid South. Last year's parade brought over 7,000 spectators along the 1.5 mile parade route, and this year should be even larger. This year, the parade will be held on Saturday, December 1, at 10 a.m., with a rain date of December 8. Parade officials have promised several new entertaining surprises to delight young and old. Spectators should plan to arrive early, because Highway 302 (Goodman Road) will be closed at 9:40 a.m. until the end of the parade, which should be approximately 11 a.m. For more information, please contact the Horn Lake Chamber of Commerce at 662-393-9897, or e-mail them at hlchamber@att.net.

Olive Branch has many fun holiday activities. The businesses and merchants in Olive Branch Old Towne all pitch in to help the City and The Old Towne Association turn the Old Towne Business District into a month-long celebration of the Christmas season. One of the events is Santa Claus in Old Towne during the afternoon and evening 4f December 10, 11, 12, and 13, where Santa will talk to children at Pigeon Roost Plaza. Another is Caroling in Old Towne. Starting at 5 p.m. on Thursday, December 6, groups of carolers will follow predetermined routes through Old Towne, stopping and singing Christmas carols at designated locations. At 7 p.m., all of the carolers will converge at the site of the Old Towne Christmas Tree and sing carols en masse prior to a brief ceremony and the lighting of the tree. Prizes will be given for the most Dickenesque costumes. During the Caroling, between 5 and 7 p.m., the Olive Branch City Beautiful Commission will have "Open House" at the 125-year-old Wesson House, home of Olive Branch's first mayor, for guests to visit the old house while it is dressed up in its holiday splendor. Also lined up to celebrate the holidays is the annual Christmas parade, sponsored by the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce, scheduled for December 8 to follow a mile and a half route through several neighborhoods Olive Branch Old Towne, and then back to City Park.

In Hernando, the Lighting Ceremony last year kicked off the Annual Christmas Open House Weekend. This year's event will be held Sunday November 18 from 1-5 p.m. Every year, all the retailers on the Square and throughout Hernando open their doors on the Sunday before Thanksgiving in order to kick off the Holiday season and promoter shopping local retailers in Hernando. Some of the highlights include carolers, a jazz band, pictures with Santa at the Courthouse, food and bargains in many shops, $1,000 in door prizes, and many other events to start the Holiday Season.

Cupelo

The beginning of December abounds with holiday fun in this northeastern Mississippi city. On the first of the month, the Tupelo Ballet Company presents the Nutcracker Ballet at the Center for Fine Arts at the Tupelo High School. Performances will take place at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. This full length fantasy ballet has long been a favorite of children and adults alike. A joyful addition to this performance in recent years is the participation and accompaniment of the award winning Tupelo Symphony Orchestra. Integrating live ballet with a live version of Tchaikovsky's score makes this Nutcracker Ballet an unforgettable holiday experience.

Also on December 1, the Tupelo Downtown Association sponsors, the annual Tupelo Christmas Parade at 10 a.m. The parade winds through the streets of downtown Tupelo, and has over 110 participating floats, bands, characters, and of course, Santa Claus.

If you need to "get away" from all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, you can take a retreat to the First Evangelical. Church of Tupelo, on December 5-9. Settle into the warm atmosphere of a festive village where the sights and sounds will Church of carry you on an incredible journey. You will experience the crisp air of a winter wonderland, and you will almost smell the gingerbread in the village bakery. Then, as you begin to feel yourself flow into the holiday spirit, you'll be captivated as your characters relive the very first Christmas. Admission is free, and tickets will be available beginning on November 5. Call 662-844-9960 to make reservations.

Greenwood

Two rents steeped in tradition and holiday spirit will beckon you to this Delta town. The Florewood Plantation Candlelight Christmas Tour takes place on December 7-9, and is a welcome step back in time. Florewood is a re-creation of an 1850's plantation that is decorated for Christmas in the period--all by candlelight--from the main house in its finery, to the more rustic out-buildings. Tour the grounds and its many buildings, all adorned for the holiday season with fruits, vegetables, and hand-made ornaments.

Also on December 7, the Roy Martin Delta Band Festival Winter Carnival is a 60 year tradition. This annual Christmas Parade presents bands, floats, and naturally, Santa Claus. Beginning on Grand Boulevard, the parade runs through historic downtown Greenwood. It is topped o f with a spectacular fireworks display over the Yazoo River. For more information about either of these events, call 800-748-9064.

Vicksburg

The River City offers many activities to satisfy your cravings for Christmas cheer, and two of those events take place at the Historic Cedar Grove Mansion. Cedar Grove Mansion Inn's Victorian Candlelight Tour begins on December 1. The tour will be given by guides in period costumes, and a magnificent 14-foot Christmas tree will be on display in the Double Parlors, decorated Victorian style. Cedar Grove will also be hosting its first annual "Christmas Open House Party at the Mansion" on December 18 from 6 until 8 p.m. Guests will enjoy hot apple cranberry brie, and frothy mugs of eggnog in the Mansion Ballroom. For more information, please call 601-636-1000.

Other holiday happenings in Vicksburg include the Old Fashioned Christmas Open House on November 25 from 1:30 until 5 p.m., where over 30 stores will open their doors for the first sights, sounds, and scents of the holiday season. For more information, call 601-636-3738. The Vicksburg Christmas Parade will take place on Washington Street in Downtown Vicksburg on December 1, and Christmas tours will be given of beautiful, historic homes decorated for the season on December 1 and December 15 from 5 until 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for a four-house tour. For more information about the tours, call 601-636-7421. The Nutcracker Ballet will take place on December 2 at 2 p.m. at the Vicksburg High School Auditorium, and Debra Franco Preparatory School will present "Mistletoe Magic," dancers and singers performing to Christmas music, at the Parkside Playhouse on December 8 at 7 p.m. and December 9 at 2 p.m. For more information about the Nutcracker, please call 601-636-9389 and for more information about Mistletoe Magic, call 601-638-7282.

Jackson

Jackson Academy parents have hit on a winning holiday fundraiser with their annual Homes for the Holidays, featuring homes of JA families, decorated to the hilt for the Christmas season. The tour this year will highlight the homes of Mr. and Mrs. Bill Lampton and Dr. and Mrs. Dave Crasto in the Eastover subdivision in Jackson. The tour will take place on Thursday, December 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Special entertainment will be provided by Courtenay Collins, a new Mississippi resident and off-Broadway star. The Homes for the Holidays gift shop will be available at one of the homes, featuring various stoking stuffers and handmade Christmas decorations. Local sponsors make this event possible, so that the profits can go towards improving the school. Past proceeds have allowed JA to purchase air conditioning for the old gym, a scoreboard for sporting events, and to award teacher grants that benefit individual classrooms. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door; for more inform ation, please call 601-362-9676.

The Millsaps community will host its annual Advent Service of Lessons and Carols on Friday, December 14, in the Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex recital hall. The special service, sponsored by the Millsaps Singers and the Millsaps Campus Ministry Team, includes a candle-lit concert of traditional Christmas hymns and sacred music. The program follows the Service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, England.

"The service is very popular among the Millsaps and Jackson communities," says Dr. Timothy Coker, Chair of the Millsaps Performing Arts Department and conductor of the Millsaps Singers. The Advent Service, which begins at noon, is free and open to the public. For more information, call 601-974-1422.

Belhaven College presents their Singing Christmas Tree, a holiday tradition since 1933, on November 30 and December 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the soccer bowl on the Belhaven campus.

The Singing Christmas Tree is an outdoor choral performance of the season's favorite Christmas carols presented by the Belhaven department of music under the direction of Chris Shelt, chair of the department of music. The public is invited to attend at no cost; for more information, call 601-968-5930.

Meridian

The Meridian Restorations Foundation will present the 33rd Annual Trees of Christmas Tour on December 2-8. "The Past Revisited" will be the theme of the 2001 event that will take place at Merrehope and the F.W. Williams homes located near downtown Meridian.

This year's theme was established after organizers discovered some beautiful, old decorations from past tours. Using these decorations from former tours, many of the trees will be familiar to tour patrons. In addition to the decorated trees, Santa's Workshop will be filled with homemade breads, cakes, cookies, candies, and pies, baked fresh daily. Other items will also be on sale including handmade craft items.

The week's festivities will include a casual candlelight tour on Thursday, December 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. Guided tours will be available Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. Cost of the tour is $8 for adults and $2 for students through high school. For more information, call the Meridian Restorations Foundation at 601-483-8439 or the Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau at 1-888-868-7720.

Other happenings in Meridian include the annual Cellular South Holiday Extravaganza featuring shopping, food, and Santa's Workshop; the Meridian Holiday Christmas Parade; "King David," a special holiday concert sponsored by the Meridian Community College's Fantastic Arts and Letters Series; Breakfast with Santa at the Meridian Little Theatre Playhouse; and "NunCrackers," the Nunsense Christmas Musical. For dates, times, and details about these events, please see Calendar of Events beginning on page 135.

Hattiesburg

Kick off Holiday in the Hub on Saturday, December 8, with a special event sure to delight children of all ages. The Library of Hattiesburg, Petal, and Forrest County will host the 3rd Annual Holiday Family Film Festival from 1 to 3 p.m. Christmas films based on favorite children's books will be shown in the Main Library's Amphitheater. Children and parents are invited to attend this free program and to see the Library's Christmas tree decorated with children's book characters.

Several businesses downtown will host open houses and the Downtown Gallery Association will host a Gallery Walk with selected art galleries open from 5 to 8 p.m. Also at this time, the Hattiesburg Arts Council will host the Thames Elementary Performance Choir and Thames Strings playing songs of the season at the Hattiesburg Cultural Center.

Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood, Inc. presents the 26th Annual Victorian Candlelit Christmas featuring more than 15,000 luminarias lining the streets of a 23-block area of the Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood.

Another favorite back this year are the horse-drawn carriage rides along the candle-lined streets. These will be available 5 to 9 p.m. starting at the Walthall Center, 601 Court Street. Tickets for these rides are $5 for adults and $3 for children and can be purchased that night at the Walthall Center.

North Main Historic Neighborhood Association invites you to visit several historically significant homes in the neighborhood, which will host open houses from 5 to 8 p.m. All open houses are free of charge. After touring the houses, you are invited to drive and view the various old homes throughout the North Main Historic District.

D.J. Shuttle and Tours will be offering limousine and shuttle service for those wishing to take a tour through the historic neighborhoods and to see carolers in front of the churches. Rides will be available Saturday evening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. starting at the Walthall Center, 601 Court Street, at a price of $5 for adults and $3 for children. Call 601-261-9812 for more information.

Gulf Coast

Visitors to the 15th Annual Christmas on the Water Boat Parade will experience a water wonderland at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. More than 70 boats adorned with glowing lights and beautiful holiday decorations will illuminate the calm waters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Broadwater Marina to Point Cadet Marina.

In 1986, a small group of boaters decided to light up Coast waters in celebration of the holiday season. Since then, Christmas on the Water has grown to feature an entire weekend of family-oriented events that are free to the public.

"Since the inception of Christmas on the Water, the committee's goal has been to bring a sensational lineup of fun and festive activities for people of all ages and interests to enjoy," said Rusty David, Christmas on the Water committee chair. "We encourage everyone to come celebrate the season Mississippi Gulf Coast-style."

The holiday weekend begins Friday, November 30, with an opening reception at the Biloxi Library followed by a children's parade and the lighting of the Town Green. Holiday Brush with Art at the George E. Ohr Arts and Cultural Center commences Saturday's events and the weekend finale will be the Christmas on the Water Boat Parade and fireworks display December 1.

Biloxi isn't the only place to find seasonal special events. Pass Christian is another Coastal community that celebrates the holidays the first Friday in December. Also known for its lighted boat parade, Christmas in the Pass offers open house at businesses in the historic downtown district, as well. A Santa parade, strolling carolers, and art displays are also featured.

The Christmas Festival of Lights is Gulfport's tribute to the merry season. After December 7, downtown Gulfport will come aglow each evening for the month of December with the radiance of a million lights decorating buildings and holiday displays.

"Christmas on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is unique because it combines tradition with local color," said Stephen Richer, executive director for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Our holiday events are a special part of the Coast's many spectacular and distinctive celebrations that make a visit to our resort destination truly unforgettable."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Downhome Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:special events and festivals in Mississippi
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Calendar
Geographic Code:1U6MS
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:2734
Previous Article:The Essence of Christmas.
Next Article:Party at the Plantation.
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