Our Favorite Memphis Holiday Traditions

Posted by Holly Whitfield | November 26th 2018 1373 0

There are a ton of ways to celebrate the holidays in Memphis and the Midsouth, and I Love Memphis has a big list of Memphis Christmas and holiday events right here. If you want to know a little more about some of those, including our favorite longtime events – and a few new ones! – check out the list below.

Memphis Zoo Lights

Graceland Lighting Ceremony – Nov. 15 – Jan. 8
Blue Christmas? White Christmas? Home For Christmas? Whatever your favorite Elvis Christmas song, you’ll love Graceland all lit up for the holidays. Graceland also hosts a Holiday Concert Weekend on December 14 and 15.

Zoo Lights – Nov. 16 – Dec. 30
The Memphis Zoo hosts the SunTrust Zoo Lights again this year on select nights from Nov. 16 through Dec. 30. There are literally a million lights, singing trees, free tram and carousel rides, and a few animals on display. For extra fees, you can also ice skate, ride a camel or a Ferris Wheel, and more. 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. $9 non-members. Traffic tends to back up at peak times, so if you can, try to bike/walk or go at off-peak times. At the very least, carpool.

Enchanted Forest at the Pink Palace – Nov. 17 – Dec. 31
Is this the oldest holiday display in Memphis? Probably. It’s been around since the 50s and now has a home at the Pink Palace along with their annual Festival of Trees tree decorating display. Open daily, hours vary. Open late on Fridays. $6 adults/$5 kids and seniors.

Santa At Carriage Crossing – starts Nov. 17
You know the deal. Mall Santa. Pictures. Hopefully minimal crying. I’m sure he’ll stick around until Christmas. It’s free to see Santa, but you have to pay for the pictures.

Downtown Holiday Tree –  starts Nov. 17
See the big holiday tree at the corner of Peabody Place and Main Street.

Starry Nights at Shelby Farms – Nov. 22 – Dec. 28
Drive through two miles of light displays at Shelby Farms every night from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. (until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, closed on Nov. 26). There’s also Mistletoe Village with activities and refreshments. The only nights they’ll be open for walkers and bikers (and closed to cars) are December 3 and December 10 and it’s $5 per person. On the 10th you can bring your dogs. $20/car, $50/van, $150/bus.

Holiday Wonders at Botanic Garden – Nov. 23 – Dec. 31
If you didn’t make it to the Botanic Garden at the holidays last year, you missed the brand-new Holiday Wonders experience. The Garden will host four different areas with holiday displays. Open select nights from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. (last admission at 8 p.m.) You can reserve your timed-entry tickets to cut down on waiting. Tickets on sale Nov. 12. Last year it was $8 for members/$12 non-members.

Christmas Tree at the Peabody – starts Nov. 23
Catch the Duck Marches at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. while you take in the classiest holiday decor in town. The tree stays up all season.

If Scrooge Was A Brother/Sistah at Hattiloo – Nov. 30 – December 23
This remix of the classic Christmas carol tale stars Flo Roach as Ebenita Scrooge, a heartless businesswoman who doesn’t understand Christmas. Three spirits to try to teach her a lesson.

A Christmas Carol at Theatre Memphis – Nov. 30 – Dec. 23
It’s a longtime Memphis tradition – go see the classic Dickensian holiday tale and bathe yourself in nostalgia, good cheer, and beloved characters. God bless Memphians, every one.

Delight at the Concourse – Nov. 30
Here’s a newish one for you – the Crosstown Concourse building will flip on the awesome 100-foot-tall lights in the Central Atrium on Friday, Nov. 30. At the same time, Crosstown Arts will have their open house, and Choose 901 and Cheryl Pesce will have their sales/open houses. If you haven’t tried one of the new restaurants (I especially recommend Global Café) it’s the perfect time to check out all the new things and the holiday lights.

St. Jude Marathon – Dec. 1
No, the St. Jude Marathon is not a “holiday” event, but I wanted to send another reminder that this is happening on this particular Saturday morning. I NEED your help to cheer on the runners at Mile 15 by Overton Park. Check out the details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/2057758327617566/

Memphis Holiday Parade – Dec. 1, 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Local school bands, cheerleaders, dancers, cars, community groups, and of course, Santa. See the full list of holiday parades here.

14th Annual Stumbling Santa Pub Crawl – Dec. 1
December 1 will be a big day for downtown Memphis with the marathon all morning, the Christmas parade on Beale at 4 p.m. and the horde of hundreds of Santas and sexy Mrs. Clauses (and sexy elves and sexy Grinches or sexy whatever) that descends upon downtown every year for the Stumbling Santa Pub Crawl. The crawl begins at Flying Saucer and goes to several other bars TBA. It’s all for an amazing cause – all the crawlers must bring a new, unwrapped toy for the Porter-Leath toy drive. Not into the pub crawls or strangely provocative holiday outfits? Give back at the annual Porter-Leath Toy Truck event instead.

Holiday Happenings At Woodruff Fontaine – Dec. 7, 9, 15
Every year, you can experience the holidays historic-home style in the Victorian Village. The Woodruff Fonatine House Museum hosts several events, including the Yuletide Open House on Friday, Dec. 7 from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. (donations accepted), Cookies & Crafts with Santa on Dec. 9 ($15 per kid), and Merriment Under the Mistletoe cocktail party on Dec. 15 ($40). The Mallory-Neely House will host a holiday open house on Dec. 7, too.

New Ballet Ensemble’s Nut-Remix – Dec. 14 – 16
The 16th annual Nut Remix returns to the Cannon Center for one weekend, and will feature the talents of world-famous Li’l Buck (who you can catch in Disney’s Nutcracker movie as the Mouse King, now in theaters!) and many others. Nut Remix is just that – a Beale Street remix of the classic holiday ballet – that incorporates many forms of dance beyond ballet: Memphis jookin’, flamenco, jazz, and hip-hop. ($40 orchestra / $20 mezzanine).

A Victorian Holiday With Opera Memphis, Dixon Gallery, Dec. 14 – 15, 7 p.m. – 10 p.m., $25
So, this one is actually new this year – but I think it sounds absolutely delightful. Opera Memphis hosts an interactive experience at the Dixon – singers dressed in Victorian Era costumes, carols, games, an illusionist, and wassail drinks! Don’t know what wassail is? You’ll find out. Dixon members get 20 percent off.


What are your favorite Memphis holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments.


Author: Holly Whitfield

I write about what’s going on with Memphis music, food, arts, events, sports, people, and culture. Memphians love Elvis and barbeque with a passion that must be seen to be believed, but there is so much more to this place.

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