The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips & Beyond: December Events Roundup

By Gerald E. McLeod, December 2, 2015, 2:20pm,

December is off to a wet and chilly start, but the Christmas lights are still burning brightly.

A Louisiana Christmas Tradition: Bonfires on the Levee, Dec. 24

Those crazy Cajuns in Louisiana have invented a spectacular Christmas Eve tradition. More than 100 bonfires light up the night sky on the levees along the Mississippi River to guide Papa Noel to the children’s homes. Folks all over St. James Parish join in the tradition of bonfires, fireworks, and food, but the largest concentration is on River Road between Lutcher and Gramercy just north of Lake Pontchartrain and convenient to I-10. To avoid the congestion, take a tour bus to the site from New Orleans 45 minutes away.

If you can’t commit your Christmas Eve to the fiery celebration, the town of Lutcher warms up for Christmas Eve with the Festival of the Bonfires on Dec. 11-12. There will be plenty of great Louisiana food and fun with a bonfire lighting each night. See for more info.

Wonderland of Lights: Through Dec. 31, Tue.-Sun., 5-9pm

The town of Marshall, Texas, has been working on their Christmas lighting displays for nearly 30 years and they’ve gotten pretty good at it. The centerpiece of the colorful trails through the neighborhoods leads to the old Harrison County Courthouse in the center of town. Not only is the square occupied with food venders, carriage rides, and entertainment each night, but there is also a large outdoor ice skating rink. See for more info.

News Briefs

Santa Claus Postmark

Give your holiday cards a special postmark from the Santa Claus, Indiana post office. Each year, a local high school student designs new artwork for the cancellation featuring the town’s namesake. There is no charge for having up to 50 letters hand cancelled at the post office. Simply apply the correct postage to each envelope, package them up in box or envelope, and mail to: Postmaster, Santa Claus Station, Santa Claus, IN, 47579-9998. The picture postmark is available through Dec. 24.

Comeback, Patricia, Comeback

Mexican tourism officials have decided that Hurricane Patricia wasn’t bad enough the first time, so they’re offering 25 lucky Patricias a free trip to return to the sunny beaches of Vallarta-Nayarit or Manzanillo on the Pacific Coast. Hurricane Patricia roared ashore on Oct. 23 packing winds of 160 mph but doing little damage. It was the strongest known hurricane to ever strike Mexico’s west coast. Entry to the sweepstakes is open through Dec. 31 to anyone named Patricia. See for more info.

100th Anniversary Collector’s NPS Coin

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the U.S. Mint has unveiled $35 gold coins, $10 silver coins, and $5 half-dollar coins featuring John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt. Funds from the sale of the coins are used to help preserve and protect NPS parks. See for more info.

Dancing Shoes Not Included

Two historic Texas dance halls are for sale. The Swiss Alp Dance Hall between La Grange and Schulenburg includes a farm house, 25 acres, and the early 1900s dance hall. The Silver Spur Dance Hall in Bandera includes five rock cabins, a house with a view of the river, and the rock ruins of the once majestic dance hall that are still used as an event center. Check with your real estate agent for information.

Other December Events

History in Lights
Dec. 1-31, Goliad State Park and Historic Site, 361/645-3405,

Bethlehem Revisited
Dec. 4-6, 11-13, Waxahachie, 972/937-2390,

Kingston Trio in Concert
Dec. 12, Kerrville, 830/896-9393,

Geminid Meteor Shower
Dec. 13-15. Everywhere.

Stephen F. Austin Funeral Procession Reenactment
Dec. 26, Jones Creek. 979/864-1541,

Magical Winter Lights
Through Jan. 10, Sam Houston Race Park, Houston. 713/496-0556,

Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America
Through Feb. 28, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 713/639-7300,

Gerald McLeod has been traveling around Texas and beyond for his "Day Trips" column for the past 24 years. Keep up to date with his journeys on his archive page. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 40312, South Austin, TX 78704.

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