For those of us who are lucky to have been raised in Nashville or have at least been able to spend considerable time in our city, you know that there are some “uniquely Nashville” activities and events that occur during the holiday season. Sports & Entertainment Nashville wants to highlight some of the special festivities that our area provides at this special time of year.
The Nashville Symphony and Chorus are performing George Frideric Handel’s Messiah, the famous and beloved oratorio composed in 1741. Its stirring Hallelujah Chorus, which is reputed to be the point at which England’s King George II stood in honor of the performance, is one of our very favorites in Nashville. Many Nashvillians have fond memories of their school choir days, learning the intricate vocal parts of this portion of the Messiah. The Symphony and Chorus’ performance of the Messiah will begin on Thursday, December 18 and run through Saturday, December 20. On an interesting note, at the time Handel composed this now-traditional holiday composition, Nashville was not yet a settled community. It predated Nashville’s Fort Nashborough by almost 40 years.
Another beautiful composition that is uniquely Nashville is our Nashville Ballet’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker Suite. Our beloved version of the ballet, entitled Nashville’s Nutcracker, will run from December 6 through 23.
Of all the local Nashville holiday traditions, this might be the top of the list! Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite has been performed in Nashville for over 35 years, and the inclusion of young ballet students from local studios and the School of the Nashville Ballet is one of the most endearing portions of this performance.
One of the longest standing Christmas traditions is caroling door-to-door. For almost 100 years, Nashvillians have been caroling during the holiday season in support of the Fannie Battle Day Home for Children. Established in 1891 by Miss Fannie Battle, this center is the oldest childcare center in middle Tennessee and provides a wonderful community service for at-risk children and their families. It is one of Nashville’s unique combinations of holiday cheer and volunteering support, and the caroling program for the Fannie Battle Day Home is still going strong!
Another of Nashville’s traditions is Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art, which has maintained a tradition at least 30 years strong with their themed Christmas tree displays.
Many an adult will remember the annual school field trips to see Cheekwood’s “Trees of Christmas” displays, and Cheekwood continues that tradition with additional holiday activities, which include gingerbread house workshops and daily reindeer encounters, which run Tuesday through Sunday through December 31. This year’s theme is international, with trees decorated in the style of countries around the world. This is a Christmas tradition not to be missed in Nashville!
Nativity scenes are yet another Nashville tradition, with one of the most cherished being the Harvey’s department store-designed nativity at the Parthenon on display each year from 1954 to 1967. While both Harvey’s and the nativity display have been absent for decades, this Nashville holiday tradition is one that is fondly remembered around the Christmas dinner table. This tradition can be seen in many other forms, however, most especially in our area’s live nativities. Woodmont Christian Church’s “Walk Thru Bethlehem”, a live display and demonstration of what Bethlehem was like during the time of Christ’s birth, has been a Nashville tradition for over 30 years since it first debuted in 1983. Other area churches both large and small also put on a live nativity, much like Triune Baptist Church, which also provides a live nativity scene for the community to observe. Woodmont’s “Walk Thru Bethlehem” is a one-day event, scheduled this year for Sunday, December 13. Triune Baptist’s live nativity can be viewed on Saturday and Sunday, December 19 and 20.
Other live events that are not to be missed are the local festivals throughout our area, such as Franklin’s annual Victorian street festival, aptly named Dickens of a Christmas. Now in its 30th year, this street festival offers visitors a glimpse into Victorian England, complete with live characters playing the roles of Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and even Santa himself. Horse-drawn carriage rides, fabulous period costumes and excellent food vendors round out the holiday experience, set to run Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14. One of the more amusing aspects to this festival is to see actual Franklin police officers on duty, regaled in period costumes as British “bobbies.”
No Christmas activities would be truly complete without a car trip to see our area’s Christmas light displays. We all know and love the professionally done displays at such places as Opryland and Jellystone Park, but we have always prided ourselves on our homemade light displays, seen in blazing glory in many neighborhoods. We have all made a tradition of viewing these displays year after year, with the display on Sunnyside Drive in Brentwood occurring each year for decades in memory of their son, BJ Minneci. Lipton Lights in Franklin is also a home display that has wowed viewers for years now, and its professional audio accompaniment is quite impressive. These two displays, along with many other impressive projects throughout middle Tennessee, are ones not to be missed. Pack up the kids in the car with some cookies and boiled custard, and drive to some Christmas light displays. You’ll make memories for a lifetime!
We hope you have enjoyed this review of some of the special activities that make Nashville unique in its celebration of the holidays. While they may not be unique to just Nashville, they are activities that we Nashvillians have treasured for years. We hope that they will become a family tradition or are already a part of your traditional holiday activities! Merry Christmas, everyone!