The Magnolia State Sparkles for the Holidays: Celebrating Christmas in Mississippi
From twinkling lights on the Gulf Coast to cozy small towns in the hill country, Mississippi showcases southern hospitality, charm, and festive flair during the Christmas season. This comprehensive guide explores how Mississippi honors traditions old and new with vivacious holiday spirit.
Merry and Bright: An Overview of Christmas in Mississippi
When December rolls around, Mississippi transforms into a winter wonderland with beloved celebrations that are uniquely southern. Families eagerly await cookie exchanges, Christmas markets overflow with handcrafted gifts, and historic mansions glow with classic decorations. Locals honor time-honored customs while also embracing more diverse, inclusive festivities that reflect the state's rich culture. This warm seasonal embrace has built traditions now deeply rooted in the Magnolia State.
Experience Christmas on the Coast
Life moves at a slower pace along Mississippi's scenic Gulf Coast beaches. But when Santa's on his way, these coastal communities joyfully prepare with coastal charm and regional flare.
Twinkling Trees and Tinsel in Biloxi: On the shores of the Gulf, Biloxi decks the halls each year with glittering holiday trees. Wander through festive light displays at Biloxi Beach while sipping hot cider. Then try your luck gaming at one of Biloxi's dazzling casinos dressed up for Christmas.
Christmas by the Harbor in Bay St. Louis: Quaint shops, seafood restaurants, and cozy inns make Bay St. Louis a festive getaway for Christmastime. Take a stroll through Old Town to enjoy special holiday art walks, live music, and an enchanting display sparkling across the harbor.
Ship Island Excursions & Tropical Trees: Cruise through the Mississippi Sound to historic Ship Island to discover Fort Massachusetts dressed for Christmas. Back on the mainland, lush palms and tropical plants intermingle with twinkling lights and tinsel for a truly southern, island-style celebration.
Christmas on the River in Natchez
Perched on bluffs above the Mississippi River, historic Natchez immerses visitors in antebellum Christmas splendor during the holidays. This charming river town inspired classics like John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. Its holiday happenings evoke Christmas from centuries past.
Natchez Christmas Festival: Every December, locals revive 19th century Christmas customs with period costumes and horse-drawn carriages during their beloved three-day Christmas festival. Twinkling lights blaze while carolers, ballroom dancers, and choirs evoke eras gone by.
Holiday Pilgrimage Tours: Magnolia wreaths, swirling cinnamon and citrus scents, and intricate decorations fill mansions-turned-museums during Natchez's annual Christmas Pilgrimage Tours. Costumed guides recount Christmases past throughout decor that changes annually. Stroll through ornamented gardens or relax on the veranda under cozy blankets to hot cider or eggnog.
Small Town Celebrations for Locals
Beyond the bright lights and big cities, Mississippi has picture-perfect small towns ideal for intimate holiday happenings. Locals have treasured and protected customs perfect for Christmas lovers craving connection. Starkville's Community Tree Lighting: Starkville draws families together each Christmas season to glow with giving spirit. Kids whisper secret wishes to Santa while caroling groups harmonize by the town's towering community tree glittering with over 100,000 lights.
Hometown Holly Days in Tupelo: Tupelo, where Elvis' musical journey started at birth, comes alive for the holidays with hometown cheer. Downtown buzzes with activities like the Christmas village and parade where Santa rolls in atop a fire truck. Caroling echoes through streets decorated with scarlet bows and pine garland during these beloved traditions.
Columbus Christmas by Candlelight Tour: One of Mississippi's first settlements, Columbus charms visitors with its annual Christmas by Candlelight Tour. On chilly December nights, luminaries like tiny beacons guide people between historic homes radiating nostalgic holiday glows.
Vicksburg Old-Fashioned Christmas: Sojourn back to simpler times in Vicksburg by riding in a horse-drawn carriage through the city's antebellum district. View dazzling light displays then warm your hands by a crackling bonfire with cookies and hot chocolate.
Oxford's Very Merry Holiday: Oxford shines each Christmas with spirited events for all ages that fill quaint city squares with laughter and wonder. Children frolic in "snow" while trolleys take carolers between celebrations culminating in a hometown parade led by spirited marching bands.
Unique Traditions from Diverse Cultures
Beyond conventional Christmas festivities, pockets of diverse cultures scattered throughout Mississippi have customs that reveal its distinctive regional flavors. Many blend tradition with contemporary community connections.
Celtic Christmas Celebrations: Mississippi has strong roots in Celtic culture thanks to early Scottish settlers. Locals in picturesque Tishomingo County honor this heritage annually with a lively Celtic Christmas festival featuring bagpipers, Celtic choirs, and the area's famous highland games.
Native American Seasonal Celebrations: Tribes like the Choctaw host annual seasonal gatherings interweaving customs with holiday cheer. Community members don traditional regalia and dance while visitors sample native cuisine and arts and crafts - joyful cultural exchanges perfect for Christmas.
Diverse Community Events: Mississippi's diverse makeup blends with Christmas through celebrations like the Glendora Holiday Festival. Here African American traditions fuse with contemporary customs for days of DJ dance parties, photos with Black Santa, sleigh rides through cotton fields, and special church services.
Christmas Recipes from the Heart of the South
Christmastime kitchens fill homes across Mississippi with nostalgic flavors passed through generations. Cook up some southern hospitality through these mouthwatering regional favorites.
Sweet Tea Cakes: Refreshing sweet tea takes cake form in this beloved southern Christmas dessert combining tea-infused batter with powdered sugar or lemony glaze. These melt-in-your-mouth treats are staples at cookie exchanges.
Pecan Pie: There's perhaps nothing more classically southern for Christmas than velvety pecan pie served with dollops of whipped cream. Chopped pecan trees grow across the state while creative twists add chocolate or bourbon to this nutty classic. Comeback Sauce: Best known as the perfect pairing for Mississippi's famous fried chicken, Comeback Sauce gives unexpectedly delicious zing to holiday ham as well. The renowned condiment mixes mayonnaise, chile sauce, ketchup, garlic, paprika, lemon juice and other spices for an addictively tangy flavor.
Mississippi Mud Cake: Rich chocolate layers blanketed in marshmallowy meringue make Mississippi Mud Cake the ultimate down-home holiday indulgence. Some say the "mud" comes from using brewed coffee while others insist locals once baked these decadent treats in flower pots. Either way, it's simply scrumptious.
Peppermint Cocoa Trail Mix: For festive crunch, blend white chocolate chips, candy canes or peppermint candies, salted peanuts or pecans, chewy raisins, and Rice Krispie treats shaped into balls. Scoop into holiday tins for delicious homemade gifts or holiday nibbling.
Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas in Mississippi
Christmas creates treasured memories across Mississippi each year. Come explore the unique ways communities big and small ring in this beloved season with southern personality and flair. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about Christmas celebrations in the Magnolia State:
What are the major Christmas events in Mississippi? Some of Mississippi's most beloved statewide Christmas events include Natchez's Christmas Pilgrimage Tours and Festival, Tupelo's Hometown Holly Days, Columbus' Christmas by Candlelight Tour, and holiday excursions to Ship Island. Many towns also host special parades with marching bands, floats, and Santa.
When do people decorate for Christmas in Mississippi? Excited Mississippians start decking out homes and downtowns for Christmas as soon as fall fades and December edges closer. You'll see twinkling lights, wreaths, tinsel, and trees after Thanksgiving with bigger set ups saved for the first weekend in December.
What food and drinks are popular during Christmas in Mississippi? Classic regional eats like sweet tea cakes, mud cake, comeback sauce paired with ham, spiked cider, sweet potato casserole, ambrosia salad, pecan pie, sugared pecans, and peanut brittle recipes passed down for generations frequently fill holiday tables.
Does Mississippi often have a white Christmas? Because of its southern locale, most of Mississippi rarely sees snowfall even during the Christmas season outside of occasional flurries in the northernmost areas. But winter weather can still sweep the state, and many towns create man-made "snow" for holiday fun.
What unique Christmas traditions exist in Mississippi? From lively Celtic Christmas celebrations to Native American culture displayed at winter festivals, pockets of diverse ethnic groups and tribes scattered about Mississippi have special seasonal customs. Historic towns also present old-fashioned Christmas tours, pilgrimages, and candlelit walks blending past traditions with present cheer.
How do Mississippi towns embrace non-secular celebrations like Kwanzaa or Hanukkah? Many communities seek to represent Mississippi's rich range of cultures during Christmastime with inclusive events. For example, the Belhaven neighborhood hosts a Kwanzaa celebration while the Spring Initiative in Jackson honors Hanukkah with Jewish cuisine.
Where are the best places to see Christmas lights in Mississippi? Some top places to view dazzling Christmas light displays shine across the Gulf Coast, at Tishomingo State Park, down the historic Harbor in Columbus, blazing across countless community trees in Starkville, and sprinkled throughout the quaint shops dotting Oxford's squares.
Does Mississippi have live holiday performances like the Nutcracker Ballet? Yes! You'll find beloved shows like the Nutcracker performed in auditoriums and theaters statewide from Jackson to Hattiesburg to Tupelo. Additionally, seasonal medleys ring out from talented choirs at churches, festivals, neighborhood caroling events, and more.
What Christmas craft shows happen annually in Mississippi? Shop for perfect homemade gifts at popular annual artisan craft fairs like the Neshoba County Fair Christmas Village, the Holly Day Folk Art and Craft Show in Starkville, or the Hometown Holiday Gift Show spotlighting over 100 vendors each year in Florence.
People Also Ask About Christmas in Mississippi
Beyond the frequently asked questions, here are several other common inquiries people may have regarding celebrating Christmas in Mississippi:
Does Mississippi have Christmas tree farms or places to cut your own tree? Yes! Cut-your-own Christmas tree farms allow you to select and chop down your perfect pine. Options include Piney Woods Tree Farm in Flowood, Cayce's Christmas Tree Farm in Hernando, and Canterbury Christmas Tree Farm in Madison.
What Christmas concerts or musical events happen in Mississippi? Locals ring in Christmas with beloved concerts statewide, including the Messiah Sing performance in Jackson, Natchez Festival of Music, Christmas by Candlelight Concert inside the Mississippi Cathedral in Natchez, or Hometown Holiday Harmonies inside Elvis Presley's Birthplace Chapel in Tupelo.
Where can I find information on Christmas parades in Mississippi? Most Mississippi towns proudly host Christmas or holiday parades usually scheduled in December. Check your region's tourism website, Chamber of Commerce, or local paper for details on Christmas parade dates, locations, and festivities. Tupelo, Starkville, and many small towns have noteworthy parades.
What hotels have the best Christmas decorations in Mississippi? Iconic Mississippi hotels get decked out for Christmas such as Grand Winter Elegance inside Natchez' famed Dunleith, Beau Rivage's enchanting Winter Wonderland on the coast, Christmas at The Alluvian decor with blues music in Greenwood, and more.
Are there Christmas train rides in Mississippi like the Polar Express? Yes! Train lovers can book trips through Tennessee Valley Railroad's Winter Wonderland event departing from Tupelo towards Pontotoc complete with hot cocoa, cookies, a reading of The Polar Express, and a special guest appearance perfect for families.
It's clear Mississippi locals have perfected the art of celebrations when Christmas rolls around each year. From the Gulf shores to the river country, the Magnolia State sets a festive seasonal stage overflowing with hospitality, nostalgia, and charm ideal for making lifelong memories. This holiday season, come experience Christmas, Mississippi-style!