After Thanksgiving comes the most wonderful time of the year, and while the Alabama Gulf Coast doesn’t see snow (or even daily highs below 60 degrees), the joy and wonderment of the holidays are captured and presented in increasing glory each year at Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s Magic Christmas in Lights. With over 3 million lights set out in 15 scenes and 1,110 set pieces, the effect is dazzling and a cause for coming back year after year.
Reliving the magic of childhood
When I was a child, my favorite house in the city of Mobile was next to E.R. Dickson Elementary School where my mom worked. For days on end, a little old man would string strand after strand of colored lights around the bushes, on his roof, off of the telephone pole … wherever his lights and ladder would reach. I guess what I’m saying is he had no regard for his December electric bill.
Thus, when we left school during the holidays, it would be dark, and his house would shine like a beacon; it was Home Alone, decorating the Christmas tree and eating pizza, and making holiday fudge all rolled into one sparkling image.
As an adult, I want nothing more than for Christmas to be magical like it was when I was a child. It isn’t the holiday chocolates or the tree or the presents that are needed to rekindle the magic; it’s the lights.
When we started visiting Bellingrath Gardens and Home‘s Magic Christmas in Lights, the glittery, glowing spectacle reminded me of that special house and of those things that I always found to transcend reality during the holidays. Surrounded by millions of fairy lights, I literally felt the anticipation of something wonderful welling up inside of me; it’s the same feeling I used to get when falling in love (or when someone serves me dessert).
Making new memories
Thus, it was as much of a treat for me as for my daughter when we took her to see Magic Christmas in Lights for the first time. The weather was seasonally cool, so with hats and scarfs donned and hot chocolates in hand, we strolled through the Gardens past paths of winter kale and cabbage and amidst the crimson poinsettias while our spirits warmed at the sights of the lights. At the Home’s South Terrace, the choral and musical performance that is performed nightly (Sundays through Thursdays) during the holiday season transported us, so that for a moment, I felt like I really was living in a winter wonderland.
A tradition that transcends generations
On that first visit and even now, after we tour the Gardens, it’s always fun to peruse the Bellingrath Gift Shop. I’m sure it hasn’t translated, but I’m very nostalgic, which is why I can’t resist getting something to take home whether it’s an ornament or something decorative for the house. It’s also nice to warm up a little in the gift shop and to have a bite afterward at the Magnolia Café (which will guarantee that the children fall asleep in the car on the way home, visions of fairy-lit sugar plums dancing in their dreamy heads).
Truly, visiting the Magic Christmas in Lights has become a family tradition that we enjoy with friends and family. It’s a beautiful, festive time. Everyone loves getting together during the holidays, and nothing is more delightful than seeing my children’s excitement bubble over at the sight of the lights, the voices of the singers, and, at the end, the chance to see Santa. To them, it’s magical, and actually, it is for me, too.
Catch the lights from 5:00-9:00 p.m., Nov. 25 – Dec. 31 (the Gardens are closed on Christmas Day).