Life and Religion
|Light up the season|
|Visual splendor abounds during holidays|
|Published Thursday, December 5, 2013 7:03 am|
The holiday season is a magical time of year. It’s a time for family gatherings and honoring long-held traditions that have been passed from generation to generation.
|McAdenville in Gaston County is bathed in Christmas lights, making it a popular holiday stop for thousands of visitors annually.|
For some of us, that means a family trip to a local Christmas tree farm in search of the perfect Fraser Fir. For others, it means hours in the kitchen cooking our family’s favorite dishes and sipping eggnog while singing along to our favorite holiday albums.
One of my favorite holiday traditions was driving around town with my mom and three sisters to see the lights. I remember driving through Biltmore Forest, one of Asheville’s oldest and most prestigious neighborhoods, and simply being in awe of the sight of all the beautifully decorated homes. To this day, just the sight of Christmas lights instantly gets me in the holiday spirit.
Christmas lights were initially used only to decorate indoor trees. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House. The town of McAdenville has been credited with inventing the tradition of decorating outdoor evergreen trees with lights in 1956. Soon after it became popular to use strings of lights as decoration in places other than trees. People began hanging them outside of their homes and along the railings and rooftops of businesses. Today, one would be hard pressed to find a town in America without some public outdoor display of lights. Every year, cities and towns across the Southeast put on a spectacular show. Here’s an overview of some of the best light shows in the area:
Christmas Town USA – McAdenville Lights
Through Dec. 26
This annual spectacular has earned national acclaim and is arguably the best light show in the area (if you can withstand the traffic). And to think, it all began in 1956 with less than a dozen decorated trees around the McAdenville Community Center. Walk the town or take a leisurely ride through McAdenville to see the lightshow weekdays 5:30-9:30 p.m. and on weekends from 5:30-11 p.m.
Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Through Dec. 30
This spectacular light show at Charlotte Speedway is in its fourth year and promises to be even bigger and better than years before. With more than 800 displays made of over three million lights, an infield Christmas Village and the unique chance for fans to drive the track, Speedway Christmas is fast becoming a new holiday tradition.
Christmas at Biltmore
Through Jan. 12
More than a century ago, George Vanderbilt chose this magical season as the time to unveil his new home, the largest in America, to family and friends. He opened the doors of the Biltmore House on Christmas Eve 1895 for a regal yuletide celebration. This year’s Christmas at Biltmore in Asheville will be another extravagant celebration with miles of lights, ribbon and garland and dozens and dozens of trees.
Trail of Lights
Through Dec. 24
This lightshow in Valdese features approximately 100,000 lights and is unique because of the story it tells.
Displayed on the grounds of the Waldensian Trail of Faith, which shares the story of how a religious sect came to Burke County in 1893, Trail of Lights features a multi-piece Nativity scene with camels, manger and people formed from light strings.
There are also plenty of stars, candy canes and other seasonal scenes on display.
Holidays at the Garden
Through Dec. 31
Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont celebrates this special season with annual festivities.
This year, enjoy a display of about 500,000 lights and festive trees. There will also be plenty of nature-based craft activities for the entire family, and Santa is even coming to town on special days to visit with children. For more information, visit Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s Facebook page or call (704) 825-4490.
Winterland Express & Celebration of Lights
Through Dec. 30
Walk through the Celebration of Lights in Kannapolis while celebrating the holiday season with singing bears, s’mores, hot cocoa and other family fun activities.
And since model trains are very much of the Christmas tradition, be sure to stop by the interactive model train display in the park and take a ride Dec. 5-8, Dec. 11-15 and Dec. 18-23.
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