The last of the Thanksgiving feast items have been devoured and the fall-colored table settings of orange and brown have now turned to red and green. Yes, it is finally December, and the days count down, one by one, until Christmas. Though marketing strategies and tremendous commercialization tactics had shoppers seeing Christmas trees and blow-up yard ornaments as early as the beginning of September, we have finally reached the “official” Christmas season in all its glory.
Sunny 99.1 FM started round the clock Christmas music in mid-November and, as exciting as it was in the beginning, most folks by now are tired of hearing “Last Christmas” and “All I Want for Christmas is You.” Pretty little Miss Brenda Lee has “rocked us around the Christmas Tree” until we are dizzy. (One would think that with all the gazillion Christmas songs recorded, there would be more than just a few that are played ad nauseum, but it is the Christmas season and music is certainly an integral part of the package.
Galveston Island loves Christmas and magically comes alive in celebration of the High Holiday. For a tiny sandbar island, there are oodles of things to do and see for Christmas. The spirit of Christmas comes alive and is displayed all over the island. Old Victorian homes are adorned with lights and trimmings that make an evening ride up and down the gaily decorated streets and avenues a visual smorgasbord. For visitors and residents, the Island unwraps the joy of the season and lets it shine for everyone. In the East End, streets like Sealy, Ball, Winnie and others are so illuminated with lights that it is really spectacular to behold.
When it comes to holiday activities, there is no holding back. There are Santa Fun Runs, tree lighting ceremonies, Christmas parades, a boat parade in the harbor and merchant decoration contests to brighten your shopping in the downtown stores. Of course, the biggest celebration is Dickens on the Strand, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary, which literally opens and welcomes the Christmas season. Moody Gardens is aglow with its annual Festival of Lights, and the Railroad Museum offers adults and children an opportunity to board the Polar Express and take a ride into a Christmas fantasyland, the North Pole.
There are other jewels in the island’s crown, such as the majestically decorated Grand Galveston Hotel and Spa along the Seawall. With thousands of lights up and down the palms, the grand tree, the lighted fountain and all the lawn lights, a stop and photo session at the Galveston makes for an excellent place to create some Christmas memories. Further down the Seawall, the San Luis is adorned and offers an inviting twinkle for nightcap or dinner. The big hotels and their decorations are something that visitors and locals look forward to each year.
Speaking of hotels, be sure and check out the newly opened Hotel Lucine at 10th and Seawall. This beautifully transformed hotel is like a small slice of Europe come to the Seawall. The bars, restaurants, pool and beautifully appointed rooms offer something new for all.
The club scene on the island remains a staple, especially during the holidays. As the bars have gotten away from “labels” — and rightly so — there is something for everyone in the bar/club scene. From straight to gay to stray, the clubs offer and inviting opportunity to mingle with the locals, enjoy live music and shows and experience an eclectic Galveston at Christmas time. Recent Readers’ Choice awards polled and reported by the Daily News gave recognition to 23rd Street Piano Bar (Best Bar, Best Bartender John Schmidt, Best Cocktail, Best Martini, Best Michelada and Best Wine Selection) and popular Lucky Lounge (Best Bar 3rd Place, Best Sports Bar, Best Bartender 2nd place John Harris, Best Beer Selection, Best Bloody Mary). You get the picture here: Residents like their local bars and it shows. If you get a chance, check out the Daily News’ Readers’ Choice 2023 winner list and you will see more areas where the community was well represented.
Island Time at 31st and Seawall offers top-notch drag performances and delicious cocktails. Robert’s Lafitte at 25th and Q, Texas’ oldest gay bar, still offers great drag shows and live entertainment, as well as special events and fundraisers. The hot mix of clubs is just another reason to visit the island.
Christmas is a special time and means so many different things to each person. Childhood memories, both good and bad, seem to well up and fester during this season in particular. It is a great time to make new traditions and remember the old. Gather with friends, go out at night, look at the lights, drop into a pub, laugh and have a good time. Christmas in Galveston can be a wonderful experience and might be just what you need to make your holiday even greater.