It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and Central Louisiana is alive with the spirit of Christmas! With events lined up all month long, there is truly something for all those kids “from 1 to 92” (and beyond). As you take in the sights, sounds and spectacular events this Christmas, be sure to remember the reason for the season. Hug your friends and family close and take time from the hustle and bustle to enjoy the very best of Christmas in Cenla!
The City of Alexandria kicked off the holiday season on Sunday, December 1st with the first of The 12 Nights of Christmas, a series of special concerts and activities planned throughout the Christmas season.
The City of Alexandria Division of Community Services has coordinated this community holiday tradition for the past several years. We are grateful for the various businesses and organizations that sponsor the events and provide entertainment and refreshments each evening. The events may be free or a fee may be charged and all events are open to the general public. Each night is based on the verses from the popular holiday song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The Twelve Nights of Christmas began on Sunday, December 1st, with a performance of “The Nutcracker,” at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center. The seasonal events continue through December 19th with parades, music, home tours and performances by various holiday musical groups, churches and more.
Included in the Twelve Nights of Christmas is the return of a Cenla favorite. The congregation at Emmanuel Baptist Church is excited to bring back their “Pilgrimage to Bethlehem”, a guided tour of the dramatic recreation of first century Bethlehem. Originally conceived in 1998, the production offers a unique ministry to tell the story of Jesus’ birth. “Pilgrimage to Bethlehem” brings the Christmas story to life. More than a Christmas pageant or a living nativity scene, Pilgrimage is a full-scale recreation of 1st century Bethlehem. Hundreds of volunteers from the church and community put in thousands of hours to bring the city to life. Groups are brought through the grounds of the church which has been transformed to look, smell, and feel like it has been whisked back in time. There, guests are greeted by characters from Bethlehem and live animals. Through the tour, the characters act out the story of the birth of Jesus. In addition to the tour portion of the experience, musicians and actors present a continuously running Christmas program in the sanctuary for groups waiting to enter the city. This event draws in many people from the community and surrounding areas.
Pilgrimage will be open the evenings of Thursday, December 5th and Friday, December 6th from 6:00pm until 9:00pm, on Saturday, December 7th from 3:00pm until 9:00pm, and wraps up on Sunday, December 8th from 2:00pm until 6:00pm. Pilgrimage is free and open to the public. Emmanuel Baptist Church is located at 430 Jackson Street in Downtown Alexandria. For more information, call (318) 442-7773.
The Twelve Nights of Christmas continues with a musical flair. Both Calvary Baptist Church and the Pentecostals of Alexandria will present vibrant Christmas concerts, on back-to-back nights. On Saturday, December 7th, Calvary welcomes Point of Grace, Aaron Shust and special guest, Mallary Hope. Don’t miss this evening of Christmas favorites to celebrate the season of Jesus’ birth. On Sunday, December 8th, the POA church family will celebrate “Christmas at Home” featuring families within the family—men and women, boys and girls–celebrating the One who makes us all a part of the same family. It will be a magical evening where everyone feels at home and no one feels like “company”.
The Rapides Symphony will play its part to bring joy to your holidays with a “Holiday Traditions” concert on Sunday, December 8th at Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center. The concert will be full of traditional holiday music including music from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, Christmas carols, and an audience sing-along. The concert will feature the world premiere performance of a charming piece entitled “Bayou Suzette” Overture by one of the only orchestral music composers in our area, Avoyelles’s Nettie Chenevert. Tickets are available at RapidesSymphony.org or by calling (318) 442-9709.
An “Old Fashioned Christmas” returns to Kent House on Tuesday, December 10th from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. This free children’s event features plenty of Christmas crafts for children to take home with them and they can decorate the Kent House Christmas Tree with old fashioned popcorn and cranberry garland and paper chains. There will be a visit from Papa Noel and free hot cocoa (or lemonade if it’s warm outside) and cookies for all to enjoy.
The City of Pineville lights up the night with the annual Christmas Parade after dark, rolling up Main Street towards LC. The parade rolls on Friday, December 13th at 7:00pm and will dazzle with lighted floats, throws and an appearance by the Santa himself!
The center of Christmas in the Heart of Louisiana is AlexWinterFête. The festival opens at 5:00pm on Thursday, December 12th, in downtown Alexandria with the traditional Holiday Magic celebration, which includes the lighting of the city Christmas tree and the arrival of Santa Claus to kick off four days of holiday fun. Festival hours are 5:00pm to 10:00pm on Thursday, December 12th; 4:00pm to 11:00pm on Friday, December 13th; 10:00am until 11:00pm on Saturday, December 14th; and from noon until 4:00pm on Sunday.
Known across the state for its reputation as a fun-filled, family-friendly festival, AlexWinterFête is an award-winning event entering its fifth year. Attendees will find the great activities that have made the event a major attraction, including ice skating, Santa’s village, live music, Indie Village and a fabulous fireworks display, as well as some new surprises.
Musicians scheduled to perform this year include: Rockin’ Dopsie Jr & the Zydeco Twisters, the WinterFête Allstars featuring Chubby Carrier & Lane Mack, Katoya Flowers, Cenla Brass Band, Hot Sause, The Side Men and Jon Ladeau. “Through the years, AlexWinterFête has become recognized throughout the state as a signature holiday event,” said Alexandria Mayor Jeffrey W. Hall. “Unique activities you can’t get any place else, like the giant outdoor ice skating rink, have made AlexWinterFête a must-attend event not just for Central Louisiana residents, but for folks from throughout the state and even neighboring states. We’re pleased to bring back those traditional elements, and we have added some new things this year we hope attendees will enjoy.”
As the event continues to grow, the 2019 AlexWinterFête will see a record number of vendors participating, with more than 200 arts, crafts and food vendors scheduled to be on hand throughout the festival area, including the iconic Indie Village. One of the newest elements is the “Jolly Junction”, a special winter-wonderland area designed to delight and entertain young children. “AlexWinterFête has been tremendously popular in the past, and we are doing everything we can to ensure this year’s event is every bit as entertaining as previous festivals while adding some new elements,” explained Thomas James Nash Sr., interim director of Community Services.
After Thursday night’s opening, activities will continue Friday, December 13th, with retail, food and a variety of vendors ready to assist guests with their holiday shopping. Activities will include ice skating, children’s activities, street performers and live music on stage.
The fun resumes the morning of Saturday, December 14th, with the annual Ugly Sweater 5K run. Vendors and other AlexWinterFête activities will get started at 10:00am. This year’s attendees will want to make sure they check out some of the new attractions, including the Gumbo Cook-off and “Jolly Junction”. Saturday night’s activities will culminate with a spectacular fireworks show over the Red River.
The festival wraps up on Sunday, December 15th with the Alexandria Christmas Parade, making the move to its new downtown route to coincide with the WinterFête revelry. For more information, contact the Division of Community Services at (318) 449-5225 or visit the website www.alexwinterfete.com.
Alexandria’s Garden District Neighborhood Foundation has been working hard to present the 6th Annual Garden District Holiday Tour of Homes to be held on Saturday, December 14, 2019, from 3:00-7:00 p.m. Four historic homes will be open for tours in the historic Garden District, each with individual history and architectural character. Tour participants begin their tour at the St. James Episcopal Church, located at Murray Street and Bolton Avenue, where they can pick up their tickets and tour the beautiful historic sanctuary. All houses are within walking distance of each other, or you may drive to each stop. Available parking lots will be identified for use as well as on-street parking. Tickets are $25.00 and are available for purchase online at www.GardenDistrictNeighborhood.org or in person at Southern Chic Boutique and Main Dish & More in Alexandria.
Featured homes include the Colonel Polk House on Albert Street, an architecturally eclectic early 20th century home full of fascinating details and history; the Ayres House on Marye Street, a 1932 two-story Colonial Revival; the Davidson-Bauer Estate on Jackson Street, a pre-1931 two-story Craftsman Style home; and the Lansing Home on Albert Street, a 1928 model of brick construction.
For more information or a complete list of Holiday events, visit www.AlexandriaPinevilleLa.com/holiday or call (800) 551-9546.
Following the Tour of Homes, head on over to Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center for The Cenla Christmas Spectacular, back for its twelfth and final year. The cast and crew are ready to bring you the same great yuletide entertainment that you’ve come to expect, completely home grown here in Cenla! Featuring performing arts organizations from all over Cenla, performances by the Lagniappe Theatre Company, and your two favorite Cajun radio hosts, Dirty Coutille and Jean “the Clod” Claude. Don’t miss your last chance to have your Christmas Spirit lifted and have your funny bone tickled! The performance begins at 7:00pm, and tickets are available at lagniappetheatre.com.
Alexandria Zoo is once again lighting up the season with Holiday Light Safari. Create wonderful holiday memories with a casual stroll through the Zoo’s colorful environment sparkling with thousands of glistening lights and whimsical lighted animal figures. Hop aboard the Holiday Express Train for a merry ride with holiday music to see even more lights and displays. You can also share your wish list with Santa through December 23rd! Holiday Light Safari is a ticketed event, held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening in December from 5:30pm to 8:30pm, with the last entry at 8:00pm. The zoo closes early each evening of the event at 3:30pm (last admission 3:00pm) and re-opens as Holiday Light Safari at 5:30pm. For more information, visit www.thealexandriazoo.com.
The Twelve Nights round out with A-Town Jazz featuring Dave Duplissey on Friday, December 13th at 7:00pm, FUMC’s live drive-thru Nativity on Sunday, December 15th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm and the National WWII Museum’s Victory Belles in Concert at AMoA on Thursday, December 19th at 7:00pm. A full schedule of The Twelve Nights of Christmas is included in this month’s Entertainment Focus.
No Cenla Christmas would be complete without a touch of magic! Alexandria resident Christmas superstars Walter and Jackie Monkhouse have become famous for their dazzling Christmas display, “Magic Christmas” in the garden of their Versailles Boulevard home. The show includes special effects, strobe lights, large oak trees decked out with real antique and classic toys outlined in rope light, a Christmas train specially built by Walter, a bubble machine, choreographed light show set to Walter’s own FM radio station, an impressive collection of quilted Christmas items lovingly handmade by Jackie’s late mother, Inez LaBorde, and even an occasional sneak peak at Jolly Old St. Nick hard at work in his shop. It’s truly magical!
The Monkhouses’ display has garnered national attention, having been featured on multiple national and broadcast Christmas specials. Starting in September, the pair begins the momentous journey to bring to life a spectacular light show that includes over 200,000 lights, over five miles of wire and a meticulously programmed control room to keep everything running smoothly. Each year, the couple estimates that over 25,000 visitors will stroll by to enjoy the magic.
The undertaking is incredibly grand, and clearly a labor of love. Walter and Jackie say, “Magic Christmas gives us the satisfaction of knowing we are giving something to the community. In addition, we get the thrill of watching the old and young enjoy the creation we developed. It’s truly magic!”
For directions, show times, parking information, and much more (including great how-to tutorials on starting your own displays!), visit the Magic Christmas website at MagicChristmas.org and for the latest updates, find Magic Christmas on Facebook by searching “Magic Christmas (Alexandria, La.)”.
From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!