Trimming the Tree & Other Traditions

Trimming the Tree and other Traditions, Atlanta-Style

Growing up in Atlanta, I have so many Christmas memories and traditions that our family enjoyed, and later my husband and I tweaked as our own. One of the first I remember is The Pink Pig, which coincided with the Lighting of the Rich’s Department Store tree on Thanksgiving night. The Pigs, first Priscilla, then later Percival as well, seemed roomy enough at the time, were, in fact, very diminutive trains which rode along the ceiling of the toy department of Rich’s. In later years they ventured out onto the top of the Rich’s skybridge over Forsyth Street to its furniture store on the other side. There on the “Crystal Bridge” was the giant tree, and Santa-Land complete with live reindeer, elves and of course Santa. There would be numbers of choirs on hand to sing Christmas carols at the lighting of the tree to the large crowds of families on the street below on Thanksgiving night

Every year my cousins would come to town and we would throw sleeping bags in the back of my uncle’s “woody” station wagon, and we would go see the best lights in the city, the annual mid-town neighborhood competition of Sherwood Forest. We cousins always liked the more garishly decorated yards while our parents leaned toward the more conservative, Southern Living styles of decorations… Christmas Eve found me singing in Adele Dieckmann’s children’s choir at Trinity Presbyterian Church. Afterwards we would rush over to the thirteen cousin party- in- progress at my grandparent’s house. I can still remember the smell of my grandmother’s roast beef and watching my grandfather wrap a block of ice in a dish towel then crush with a mallet for our water and iced tea. The cousins would all stand and watch in fascination and beg for slivers…

As my husband and I began our own traditions, one of our favorites was to allow each child to invite a friend or two, (the numbers grew as the children did) and pile them into the hay filled back of a pick-up truck with blankets, and later to rent a stake bed truck for a hayride to see live nativity scenes and the word-of- mouth most outlandish decorations of that year. As we drove, we sang Christmas Carols at the top of our lungs, sometimes stopping at various church “shut-ins” as we called those recuperating from surgeries or otherwise unable to get out, to sing to them. We came back home to hot chocolate and cookies. Such fun nights and memories…

My husband and I always carved out time for The Christmas Carol with Tom Key at the Alliance and the unforgettable Robert Shaw and his Chorale together with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. My youngest and I were privileged and blessed to go to what would prove to be Mr. Shaw’s last Christmas performance in 1998, at the age of 82.

As Atlanta has grown, so have the offerings and opportunities for fun and family celebrations of the season. Below is a partial listing of the multitude of choices. Choose prayerfully and carefully. Let the phrase, “trimming the tree” be a reminder that there needs to be a pruning principle involved. (John 15: 1-2) There may be an activity or two that may need to be pruned from this year’s activities to produce that better fruit of Joy, Peace, and reflection of God’s Great Gift to us in the form of a Christ Child who became the Savior of the World.


Events out and about town

Stone Mountain Christmas: November 9-January 1

Santa Express: Blue Ridge Scenic Railway: November 29- December 24

Magical Nights of Lights of Lanier Islands: (includes Blackshear Place Baptist live nativity scene)

Lights of Life 2013: Life University, November 29-December 31

The Marietta Pilgrimage Home Tour: December 7-8, (while in the neighborhood, drive down nearby Maple Avenue to see the neighborhood-wide decorations of giant balls of Christmas lights on the stately oaks and maples)

Santa in the Square, located in the Marietta Square, December 7-8, 14-15, 19-23

Atlantic Station: Santa, ice skating, and snow, check for show times at

The Avenues, East and West Cobb: Santa and complimentary carriage rides, check for times online

Johnson Ferry Baptist: “Christmas Packages”, December 8: Live reindeer, carriage rides, music, crafts, games, food, trains and more…

Global Winter Wonderland, Turner Field,

Jingle Jog 5K: December 7, bring toys for Salvation Army, and dress yourself, children and dogs with bells, Christmas gear, etc. for a family friendly, dog and stroller friendly fun run

Pink Pig: at Lenox Square Mall, more for the pre-school set these days, as it is just two turns around a parking lot tent… Our experience has been that our participants were as excited about the hot chocolate and escalator riding which followed in the mall itself, as with their parent’s nostalgia for the Pink Pig…

Ideas for service:

Sign up your family to ring the Salvation Army bells for a shift

 Let your children do chores around the house and earn money to go out and pick out gifts for various toy drives around town, Salvation Army, Empty Stocking Fund,

Angel Tree: gifts to children of inmates

World Vision: sponsor a child, or give a goat, sheep, chicken or cow to a family or village in need, click onto “ways to give”

Heifer International, has a similar program of gifting chicks, goats, sheep, pigs, or heifers

Get together with friends and make sandwiches then give out during lunch at a homeless shelter

Stuff men’s socks with toiletries or fleece blankets, then take to ARC, Atlanta Recovery Center homeless shelter

Ideas for family time at home:

Celebrate with various advent ideas:

The Jesse Tree, a scripture based series of daily devotionals building up to Christmas Day, or Jesse tree family devotionals

Advent wreath or log, a weekly series of candle-lighting and scripture based build-up of anticipation, (many listings under advent family devotionals) website: 2013 listing of holiday programming and Christmas ideas

Have a blessed and fun-filled celebration and Merry Christmas from our house to yours!


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