The Way to Community is Paved with Christmas Lights

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Cheeks are rosy red from the cold, steam is curling up from warm, rich mugs of hot cocoa, and Bing Crosby is playing in the store on the corner.

Red and green sparkles dangle from every antique lamppost, and church choirs are singing about the Savior come to Earth.

This year, Christmas has come like a whirlwind to the communities of Wood County. Already, Quitman’s annual downtown Hometown Christmas tree sparkles and shimmers against the beautiful old courthouse; Santa has paraded past, laughing and smiling children in Mineola’s “Christmas at the Movies” themed parade; and couples young and old got to re-enact classic Christmas movies as they took a free ride in a carriage during the Mineola League of the Arts’ Holiday Bazaar.

More than just a collection of traditions, Christmastime in Wood County is a collection of community. Here, we don’t just have stores open for end-of-year shopping; we gather together to reminisce, be grateful, and celebrate.

We hold events like Quitman’s Hometown Christmas, which annually features food trucks, kids’ activities, crafts, live music, a live nativity, and a Christmas parade. We make sure everyone gets to celebrate at our parades—and we have several. Mineola, Alba (which will hold its parade at 5:15 p.m. on December 10), Winnsboro (which will be from 6:00-7:00 p.m. on December 8), and Quitman each get a turn!

We make sure everyone gets to eat. After all, what’s a night out staring at the lights and decorations without getting some good ol’ Texas chili first (which you can find in Alba on December 10 from 3-5 p.m. for only $5)?

And what’s Christmas without some sweets? Five of Mineola’s sweet shops opened house on December 3 to enter customers into a giant “Mineola Magical Sweets” prize drawing. One lucky winner won a $25 gift card to each shop and two tickets to the upcoming Dallas Cowboys/Philadelphia Eagles game!

Oh, and of course we’ve all got to see Santa Claus. Luckily, children will be squealing in delight to hear that the Jolly Old Elf will be making an appearance at more than one of Wood County’s iconic Christmas parades.

Alba Queen hopefuls will be competing for the Jesse Britton scholarship on December 8 at Alba’s downtown square at 6:00 p.m. The small town of Alba has a big Christmas spirit; they will also be holding their annual “Christmas on the Square” from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 10. This fun party is a little beyond the normal hot chocolate and caroling. In addition to the aforementioned community chili cookoff, the event will include axe throwing, a DJ, face painting, and more.

The Lake Hawkins area has also thrown its hat into the ring with a “Light Up Lake Hawkins Christmas Light Contest” and chili cookoff on December 15 from 4:30-7:00 p.m. It’s free to enter, and votes are tabulated by canned goods! Whichever entry receives the most donated canned goods wins the first of several prizes, and “proceeds” will be donated to Hawkins Helping Hands.

Stitchin’ Heaven in Quitman—the largest quilt shop in Texas—is hosting “Camp Jingle Bells” from December 8-11. Only $349 per person for a four-day weekend, this fun quilting retreat includes brunch and dinner every day, hotel-style lodging at Stitchin’ Heaven’s gorgeous Retreat Center or at a Stitchin’ Heaven cottage, social sewing (and time to finish up that project!), and, of course, Christmas cookies and hot cocoa!

Wood County in December is like a perfect holiday movie. Neighbors chat with neighbors as they tack last year’s lights “up on the housetop” for a house decorating contest. Employees display their creative talents as they decorate windows, people stroll about downtown in search of a quiet afternoon, and children shout “Merry Christmas” back and forth as parade floats sail down the street, the black asphalt transformed into something magic by the reflection of Christmas lights.

The whole community is buzzing with early Christmas morning spirit.

Don’t you want to be part of it all?