It might be me but I think Christmas is just a little more magical in Richmond than in other cities. From the elegance of Monument Avenue to the tackiest houses on the Tacky House Tour, we create a little more sparkle and a tad more excitement. When I was a girl, Miller & Rhoads and Thalheimer’s windows were pure magic and in my mind’s eye, I can see the trains running, the figures moving and all the glitter of those displays. We’ve lost those Richmond icons but there’s still great stuff to see and do…

Tacky Light Tour…You can take a limo ride but we just pile into the car and go. My kids are grown now so I collect my two great-nieces and head out. I always pack sparkling grape juice, shiny bright-colored champagne glasses and cookies so we can have as glamorous an excursion as the professional tours. Go to  http://www.richmondtimesdispatch.com  to see the list of addresses and map out your tour. Or call any of the limo or bus companies to schedule your event.

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens ( http://www.lewisginter.org  )…From the first year (a paltry display compared to subsequent years), we never miss the incredible acres of lights and displays. I’m a member and go on a “free night” but it’s worth the price and they have senior discounts and so forth. In addition to the lights, there’s the train room ( I LOVE pushing buttons and watching tiny people move and work, firetrucks responding to a burning house, the Sauer’s billboard and other delights), a room to sit by a fireplace and relax with Christmas trees decorated with dried flowers from the gardens, and more. The elaborate Christmas tree, pointsettias, orchids and other greenery in the domed conservatory are amazing.

Live nativites…When we were young, our entire family participated in the Bon Air Methodist Church live nativity. One year it was so terribly cold that Mom bought handwarmers for us all. The tradition of live nativities continues in Richmond and several churches offer this glimpse into the stable scene of the first Christmas night.

The Carillon Christmas Pageant  http://www.richmondnativity.com/ is a tradition going back generations. I know of several families with three generations participating every year. Anyone can be part of this program (check out their site for details if you want to be in it next year) and it’s Richmond at its best…a bit amateur, a bit corny but bringing tears to your eyes. It’s narrated from Luke, acted out by volunteers and accompanied by traditional carols. I was thrilled when they changed the pageant date from Christmas Eve to December 23rd. Your Christmas will be more memorable standing under the stars in the dark among hundreds of other Richmonders continuing this tradition of 80 years.

Gingerbread houses…Since 1984, I have been Chief Gingerbread House Construction Supervisor for anywhere up to 50 kids. We use foamboard ‘frames’, graham crackers instead of gingerbread and decorate with cookies, candy and more. Easier than the gingerbread version, the houses can be saved from year to year to produce an entire village for display. Contact me for the instructions and tips on how to start a really sweet tradition in your family.

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This ought to be a good start to your holiday celebrating. If you need help finding out about these or other Richmond holiday events, let me know. Meanwhile, Santa’s busiest elf (I even have the button that I wear to prove my status) has Christmas stuff to do. Ho, ho, ho.

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