During the holiday season, Abilene transforms into a Hallmark movie set. Small businesses decorate their storefronts, local coffee shops have festive flavors, and the whole city comes together for the City Sidewalks Christmas parade. Despite Abilene’s large population, this city functions as a small town. Neighbors know each other by name and small businesses thrive. The options for how to celebrate and the ensuing crowds can overwhelm even the jolliest of folks. Instead of trying to do it all, here are twelve categories for you to curate your own Twelve Days of Christmas, Abilene-style.
Day 1, Kick off the holiday season with Christmas shopping, all in one place.
Christmas Carousel is a juried show of merchants from across the country. Proceeds support the mission and community efforts of the Junior League of Abilene, focused on meeting the needs of women and children in the Abilene community. Nov. 5-7, $6 admission
Or Christmas in November is a free, multi-vendor shopping event at the Abilene Convention Center (10-12). Both shopping events take place at the Convention Center. Nov. 10-12
Day 2, Support small Abilene businesses during Small Business Saturday. Multiple local vendors will be downtown for this all-day event, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Or visit the Farmer’s Market in the parking lot of The Well any Saturday morning. Take home some cinnamon rolls from Bear’s Bake Shop to usher in the festive season. Nov. 25
Day 3, Attend a community-wide event like the Christmas Tree Lighting at the Courthouse on Nov. 28 at 5:45 or the City Sidewalks Parade on Nov. 28. Musical groups of all ages will perform throughout the evening.
Day 4, Get crafty and make your own decorations. The fragrances of the holidays are best when fresh! The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) will host a live wreath and garland making workshop, and the Grace Museum will host a candle making workshop.
Day 5, Enjoy live music by attending a concert.
The Celebration Singers’ show chorus begins the month with a free event sure to entertain on Dec. 1.
The next night, the Abilene Philharmonic’s Pops Concert will premiere the Irish Christmas in America show at the Paramount, featuring traditional Irish music, song, and dance Dec. 2.
As Christmas Day approaches, the ACU choirs will perform Christmas Vespers at the First Baptist Church on Dec. 10.
Day 6, Visit one of these three amazing Christmas light displays.
Drive through Christmas Lane at the State Supported Living Center and walk around the Winter Wonderland which houses vintage Christmas displays, many from Abilene’s history. Be sure to visit the model train room and take a picture with Santa. Donations directly support the residents at the ASSLC. Dec 1-26, 6-9 p.m. weekdays, 6-10 p.m. weekends
Take a stroll through Christmas at Safety City and gaze at the lights courtesy of the Abilene Fire Department, visit with Santa and enjoy hot cocoa and cookies. Dec. 14-16; Dec. 21-23.
Explore the Abilene State Park in a new way by driving through FaLaLa in the Forest. Campers have decorated their campsites, and for $5 a car, visitors caravan through the park to see each display. Dec. 9, 6-8pm
Day 7, Watch a Christmas movie at the Paramount like Elf on Dec. 8-9 or White Christmas on Dec. 15-16.
Day 8, Attend a Christmas ballet.
The Nutcracker is a beloved holiday classic, performed by the Abilene Ballet Theatre at the Paramount Theatre. Additionally, their Sugar Plum Fairy tea at the Abilene Woman’s Club is the weekend before Nov. 11-12. Nov. 17-19, $25/15, Patrons $40
Patty Harper Dance Studio will perform Once Upon a Christmas Eve at the Abilene Convention Center. This ballet tells the story of Arabella, a young homeless girl living in New York City in 1927. Her only wish for Christmas is to see the Fabulous Missouri Rockets tap dancing Christmas Eve on 5th Avenue. There, she is befriended by a mysterious woman who she later discovers is actually Mrs. Claus. Arabella is invited to travel to the North Pole for an evening of festivities and celebration. Tickets are available at the Abilene Convention Center beginning Dec. 4. Dec. 9, 7pm., $25 adults, $10 children
Day 9, Connect with a church. Abilene has amazing churches and with churches comes community outreach.
The Santa Breakfast at Southern Hills Church of Christ (Dec. 9), the Living Christmas Tree at Wylie Baptist Church (Dec. 7-10, call WBC to reserve a free ticket), and the Living Nativity at Our Savior Lutheran Church (Dec. 19 and 20 at 7:00 and 7:45 each night, no cost) are all examples of free opportunities to connect with communities of faith during the holidays.
Day 10, Choose a big experience. United Way of Abilene’s Winter Lightfest, in partnership with Christmas Décor by Lone Star Electric, is thrilled to bring back Winter Lightfest for its fourth year! This year, Winter Lightfest features a 3/4-mile paved walking path through nearly 3 million lights with photo opportunities, a virtual reality experience, Santa, hot chocolate, s’mores and more! Weekends Nov. 24 – Dec. 30, excluding Dec. 24-25, $12/7 online, $15/10 at gate
Christmas Celebration at the Zoo, powered by Reliant, is another event for all ages. Enjoy the wonder of the holiday while meeting Santa’s reindeer, walking through immersive light displays with over 500,000 lights, skating around an iceless rink, enjoying holiday treats and experiencing the spirit of the season at a live nativity. Dec. 15-23, 4-9 p.m.
A smaller experience that is sure to pack just as much fun is Christmas in the Garden, sponsored by the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council. This year, “Grinchy Claus and Friends” will have crafts, snacks, and story time in the Adamson-Spaulding Storybook Garden. Registration required. Dec. 1, 5 and 6:30 p.m.
Day 11, Invite a friend out for a seasonal hot beverage at a local coffee shop. At Christmas Carousel, look for Espressoak and try their Kris Kringle Chai. Downtown Abilene boasts of several shops. Sip the Sweater Weather Latte at Monk’s or the Fireside Latte at Front Porch Coffee. Catch up with a neighbor over Peppermint Bark Cold Brew Cream at Moose Mountain. Take a break from studying for finals and savor Summer Moon’s Toasted S’mores Latte. Many more local coffee joints dot our West Texas landscape, so choose one and keep Abilene caffeinated!
Day 12, Celebrate the birth of Christ at a Christmas Eve Service. Beautiful sanctuaries like Aldersgate Methodist Church and First Baptist Church host Christmas Eve services. In fact, most churches have a special service around Christmas time. The holidays are a great time to visit these various communities of faith.
By Laura Daulton