Imagine holiday shopping without the crass commercialism. You’ll find it in Bethlehem, Pa., where Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem 2000 carries on the German tradition of the holiday market. The market happens every Thursday through Saturday between Nov. 24 and Dec. 17 this year, with crafts, gifts, music and contests such as gingerbread house-making. Thousands of people turn out to soak up the lively German atmosphere — and it sure beats standing in line at the mall. Call Bethlehem Musikfest Association at (610) 861-0678 or see <www.fest.org>.
BISHOP HILL, ILLINOIS
An Illuminating Celebration
Let your Swedish roots shine this holiday season in Bishop Hill, 111., where the whole town lights up for “Lucia Nights.” Swedish tradition says that during a famine in Sweden, St. Lucia — whose name means “light” in Latin — appeared on the darkest day of the year, bringing food and wearing a white robe and a wreath of candles around her head. On St. Lucia Day, Dec. 13, Swedish girls don white robes and wreathes and wake their families with coffee and traditional Lucia buns. Bishop Hill marks the occasion Dec. 8-9. Each museum and business stays open late to feature a “Lucia girl,” who wears a white robe and serves treats and coffee. Candles line the sidewalks and illuminate each window in the village as carolers stroll the streets. Call (309) 927-3345. (For tips on tracing your Swedish ancestry, see <www.familytreemagazine.com/articles/augoo/scandinavian.html>.)
TARPON SPRINCS, FLORIDA
That’s Greek to Me
Got a little Greek in you? Celebrate Epiphany on Jan. 6 in Tarpon Springs, Fla. The town gets together on this Hellenic Church feast day for an elaborate ritual. During a procession to the bayou, a single white dove is released over the waters. Then the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church casts a white cross into the bayou, and about 50 youths waiting in small boats dive in after it. The crowd keeps celebrating with traditional Greek feasting and dancing. Call the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce at (727) 937-6109 or see <www.ci.tarpon-springs.fi.us/epiphany.htm>.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
Celebrate Christmas with a Mexican flair in San Antonio. Tourists and natives have a hand in Las Posadas on Dec. 10 when they re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem. Participants join in a candlelit procession of children dressed up as the holy family. The children knock on doors and are turned away at various stops, while choirs and mariachis sing traditional songs. Festivities with food and entertainment follow, while the kids take a crack at pinatas. Call (210) 224-6163.
“Cowboy poetry” might sound like a contradiction, but when you’re out in the wide-open West all day, poetry comes naturally. At least, that’s the idea driving the annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering, set for Jan. 27-Feb. 3 in Elko, Nev. Cowboys flock to Elko from all around to share their musings on life, nature, politics and just about everything. The tradition of cowboy poetry itself comes from Welsh and Irish immigrants, the first cowboys, who sang Celtic and Gaelic ballads on trail drives. In the past decade, some 150 cowboy poetry events have sprouted up in Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama and across the West. But Elko’s gathering, started in 1985, claims to be the granddaddy of them all. It’s held in the dead of winter because most participants are still genuine cowboys who work the rest of the year. If you have cowboy (or poet) blood in your veins, call Elko’s Western Folklife Center at (888) 880-5885 or see <www.westernfolklife.org/p.home.html>.
From the December 2000 issue of Family Tree Magazine