You’ve got to love Christmastime in small town Texas. From Orange to El Paso and Brownsville to Amarillo, lights are strung throughout downtown with care, in hopes that the tourist soon would be there.
Not too far north of Dallas is the town of McKinney. For 31-years the community has staged one “Dickens of a Christmas” and this year I was there to join in the celebration. Though not as large or flamboyant as the famed Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, McKinney still throws a great holiday party on the Square every Thanksgiving weekend.
The gray sky, crisp temps and steady breeze added to the Victorian era theme of the decorated downtown. As we strolled the 12-block historic district we noticed that “A Christmas Carol” was being performed at McKinney Performing Arts Center inside the old courthouse. Nearby, Santa was listening closely to a young boy as the child confirmed that he had been good all year long and that an X-Box would be the perfect gift to find under the tree this Christmas.
At the corner of Tennessee Street and Virginia two women dressed in their Victorian best posed for a photo. “Make it quick”, one said as the cold wind whipped beneath her dress. They were heading inside for hot tea and cookies.
All around us families walked together, talked together, and experienced quality time together as if traveling with the Ghost of Christmas Past to time long ago. There was caroling on one street corner and hand bells on another. The Victorian magic show befuddled a group of kids as their parents stood back with their cups of hot coffee and tea.
Out front of the historic Grand Hotel McKinney was a garland wrapped karaoke stage where youngsters took turns singing loud and out-of-tune renditions of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells. But, no one cared that they weren’t pitch perfect. It was Christmastime in McKinney and everyone was having fun.
The restaurants and shops around the Square were in full holiday mode. There were festive decorations both inside and out. The original Panty Restaurant was filled with festival goers at lunchtime looking for a ho-ho-home-cooked meal. I had the Blue Plate Special . . . a large portion of meat loaf with hot mashed potatoes and a bowl of beans. It was mighty fine on this blustery day in north Texas.
This is what Christmas in small town Texas is – happy faces, greeting everyone with a wave or a friendly nod, spending time with the family and joining in a tune or two celebrating the real reason for the season.
Don’t even consider being a Scrooge if you’re coming to McKinney at Christmas. Bah humbugs are not allowed.
Be sure to visit TourTexas.com for a complete list of Christmas festivals and celebrations throughout Texas.
Michael Baxter is the Texas Travelin’ Man
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