Despite the Norman Rockwell/Charles Dickens themes that permeate commercials and movies around the holidays, a huge swath of the country (and the world) celebrates in varied ways, and Houston is absolutely no exception. We are still in the midst of "fall foliage" around the same time our neighbors to the north are digging themselves out of snow banks, but weather is just one factor that plays a role in how we approach November and December.
Houston is unique and so too are our holidays, for example...
One of the more traditional winter activities does, surprisingly, exist in Houston. Inside malls like Memorial City and the Galleria, sure, but we Southerners get to engage in a decidedly Northern activity each year: ice skating outdoors. Thanks to the folks at Discovery Green, kids get a chance to try real winter on for a few minutes even if it is 75 degrees outside.
Like most cities, we have beautiful lighting displays from neighborhoods to city streets, but nothing says Christmas in Houston like the magical blend of twinkling Christmas lights and brake lights, mostly found in and around shopping areas.
Lights in the Heights
And speaking of lights, the annual holiday celebration spread throughout the streets of Houston's oldest neighborhood is always fun not just because of the beautiful light displays and the holiday revelry, but also because there's always a ton of alcohol available. Fa la la la la, indeed.
Dickens on the Strand
If you're in the mood for something slightly more British and 19th century — and the Renaissance Festival has already ended — tally ho on down to Galveston, where you can frolic with perfectly normal people dressed as if they've walked off the pages of A Christmas Carol, minus the abject poverty.
One thing we do well in Houston every month of the year is food, and the holidays are as good a time as any to indulge the old sweet tooth. Fortunately, we have Kegg's Candies and Flying Saucer Pies. The former is the in-demand candy maker in west Houston, and the latter is the near north side pie maker. Both are excellent choices, but order early because they run out fast.
Shopping is either the joy of your Christmas or the bane of your existence. The good news is that both are on full display at Houston's haute-est mall. We recommend taking Uber to avoid the hellish parking, and take your time. Grab a drink. Get some food. Find joy in the happiness (and sorrow) of the teeming masses. It's Christmas, after all.
Jackets Are Optional
One day you may need a heavy coat, and the next you could don a tank top and be perfectly comfortable. Welcome to winter in Houston. If you're making your turkey on the smoker this Thanksgiving, no one will laugh at you and your shorts–flip-flops combination on that glorious patio, and you might make a few Minnesota relatives weep with envy as they dig themselves out of three feet of snow.
Diversity at the Dinner Table
Given that Houston's one of the most diverse cities in America, it makes sense that our meals are just as <strike>weird</strike> interesting. Tamales, particularly those from Alamo if you don't have relatives who make them every year, are always on the menu, but so are barbecue, pho, seafood and everything in between.
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Lack of Freeway Traffic
One of the great stress relievers on Thanksgiving and Christmas is hitting the highway and being damn near alone out there. Our version of over the river and through the woods might be more like over the construction and through the gridlock, but not on the holidays.
People Are Even Friendlier Than Usual
If you find it weird that strangers randomly start up conversations with you in the line at the grocery store, this may not be your favorite season after all, because it's about to get hella jolly up in H-E-B, son. You think Houstonians wave and say "hi" a lot in the summer? Well, when the Yule rolls around, you might get a hug from a dude dressed like Old St. Nick. Get ready.