By Jan Schroder
Photography courtesy of Covington-Tipton Chamber of Commerce
and The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County
Southern towns enjoy traditional Christmas celebrations that reflect Charles Dickens’ vision of the perfect holiday with feasts, goodwill and peace.
Men in plaid vests sporting top hats and walking with canes, women in long skirts with frilly blouses, and children standing rapt as they listen to Christmas carolers are a few of the scenes you can expect to see at Victorian Christmas celebrations around the South. Here are a few places where you can don your bonnet and get in on the fun.
Dickens on the Square
Every year the Historic Covington Square in Covington, Tennessee, is transformed as shop owners decorate their shops with Victorian decorations for Dickens on the Square.
In addition to the puppet shows, refreshments, bell choirs and horse and carriage rides, Covington is adding more music this year with additional Christmas carolers and local choirs. Another new event is Breakfast with Santa at Old Town Hall & Café.
While shop owners and customers have always been encouraged to dress in period costumes, this year’s celebration will include a competition among the business owners to win “Best Dressed.”
Lizzy Jackson, owner of Bayou Belle’s Boutique and the chairman of the 2018 event says, “People come in and they are so excited to see our costumes. We just love the spirit of the celebration – everyone is in a great mood and so happy.”
To view more Christmas décor or pick up a few items of your own, head to nearby Brighton to visit Oak Lawn Garden Center and Nature Gift Shop. Stop for a bit of comfort food at Billings Bald Butcher or Little Jimmy’s Lunch Box.
Dickens of a Christmas
With Victorian architecture featured prominently in its 16-block historic downtown, Franklin, Tennessee, has a head start with its Dickens of a Christmas celebration. Guests may spot Ebenezer Scrooge, Fagin and Jacob Marley among the 200 musicians, dancers and characters at the free street celebration, now in its 34th year.
Guests are encouraged to get in the spirit by dressing in period costumes. If that’s not your thing, grab your ugliest Christmas sweater and stop by the First Citizens National Bank booth (sponsors of the event) to enter the Ugly Sweater contest.
Bring your modern-day currency as more than 100 vendors will be selling arts and crafts. Entertain the wee ones with train rides and pony rides, and end the evening with the town singing Christmas carols.
“This year, we anticipate bringing even more period-appropriate activities and programming to the festival,” said Liz Hall, the director of the festival. “Not only is this a prime opportunity for kids and families to have a good time but also to learn something about days-gone-by, which directly supports our educational mission.”
Franklin, located just about 20 miles south of Nashville, has historic homes to tour and more than 30 places for live music. Get your Southern food fix along with some lively tunes at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant and check out the 100-layer donuts at Five Daughters Bakery.
A Dickens Christmas
Guests don their Dickens-era clothing to stroll the streets of Iuka, Mississippi, during the town’s annual Dickens Christmas, always held the third Friday in December. While the town has had an annual Christmas celebration for many years, the Dickens theme was added in 2014. Carolers add to the festive atmosphere and the downtown merchants stay open late for holiday shoppers.
“We always provide carriage rides through the town to help set the mood,” said Shana Hollon, president of Iuka Development & Economic Association (IDEA), which puts on the event. “There is nothing fancy about our event, but we get great feedback from families about what it feels like to step back and spend time with friends and family during the holidays.”
Other sites in Iuka include a Civil War Interpretive Center and Mineral Springs Park where you can drink water directly from the natural mineral springs. It’s also home to the country’s only Apron Museum, with thousands of aprons dating back to the Civil War. Another attraction is the Old Courthouse Museum, built in 1870. Popular restaurants include Bread & Butter and the tiny Front Street Snack Bar, which dates back to the 1920s.