December is such a wonderful time of the year! Children's eyes grow big with anticipation as they wait for the opening of gifts on Christmas morning. Adults wonder how far the money can stretch and grow exasperated as they assemble special gifts and -find that one last important screw is missing. Families shop for the prettiest and freshest Christmas tree to adorn the living room. Once purchased, the boxes of ornaments that have been carefully stored will be pulled from the closets to decorate the tree. Special presentations, parades and visits from Santa Claus are planned for these special days.
The nicest thing about these special presentations is that they are free to the public so that all can enjoy. Most cities kick off the Christmas season with their annual parade generally scheduled for the first weekend of December.
This year, Brownsville was possibly one of the first cities to start the special festivities when on November 25th the lights were turned on in thirty-three miniature houses all decorated for Christmas. The presentation is outdoors at Dean Porter Park and will last for six weeks.
Now in its tenth year, the display in Brownsville started with only ten little houses. Today, there are thirty-three houses. The diminutive structures feature the historic Stillman House, Santa's Hunting & Fishing lodge, Gingerbread Bakery, General Store, Santa’s Workshop, Hanukkah by the Sea, Village Library, North Pole Clinic and the Elf’s Bunkhouse. The idea was conceived by Brownsville resident Mellena Conner. Today the event is sponsored by local businesses, government entities and foundations and it is still free to the public.
This exhibit intrigues both adults and children - adults will marvel at the craftsmanship and decorations displayed in the construction and presentation of the small houses while the youngsters will marvel at the wonder of it all. If the youth wish, they can participate in a race to see who can find the Elf on the Shelf who will be well hidden. A prize is awarded to the youth who first discovers the elf.
This venue has proven very popular in the past, but parking is at a premium. Since the exhibition will last for six weeks, perhaps the crowds will diminish after Christmas Day. If you plan your trip before Christmas, it would be wise to go early. The lights will be turned on at dark or at 6 p.m. It might be a good idea to go midafternoon or earlier with a visit to nearby Gladys Porter Zoo followed by a visit to the Holiday Village that is just across the street. Food booths are available, and the zoo even has a restaurant. Even though there is no entrance fee to the Holiday Village, there is an entry fee to the zoo both for adults and youth.
Another part of the holidays in the Valley, all of the cities will have their Christmas Parades. The one in McAllen is probably the most extravagant with special large, helium filled presentations. The parade claims to be the biggest in Texas. Special reserved stadium seats can be purchased, or you can elect to see the mile and a half long parade on the designated routes for free. The parade ends at Archer Park where, among some of the sights to behold, will be a thirty-foot-high illuminated Santa’s Castle. Even my eyes are getting bigger just thinking of that.
Many of our local churches are also preparing for Christmas ... after all, December 25 is the celebrated day of the birth of the Christ Child. Christmas trees decorate some of the churches and many will have special displays of the manger scene. One of the most complete is created by a member of St. Joan of Arc in Weslaco. Other churches may have live Nativity Scenes. The First United Methodist Church in La Feria has scheduled a live nativity scene for December 21 and 22 for evening viewing. You may know of other churches with special or outstanding manger scenes.
To bring home the meaning of Christmas, perhaps a children’s birthday celebration for the Christ Child could be in order with a star shaped birthday cake and a special visit to a church with a Nativity scene.
Let your imagination run wild just as the lady in Brownsville did when she initiated the Holiday Village or just as the McAllen Assistant City Manager did when he dreamed of the largest parade in Texas.