Photo courtesy of the Pink Palace.
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Unwrap Memphis: Here’s the Scoop on West Tennessee’s Holiday Happenings

Yes, I’m already planning for the holidays. Not the shopping part – the festivity part. I’m a sucker for the tree lightings, the caroling, the feats of gingerbread construction – and with so much glee about to go down in West Tennessee, I’m already fixing the calendar to fit in my favorites. In the holiday spirit of giving, I share them here with you:

Covington You could stand back and watch the Covington Christmas Parade (Dec. 9, 7 p.m.). Or, you could dress in period costume (or at least engage with others dressed so) during the town’s annual Dickens Christmas on the Square (Dec. 14, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Dec. 15, 1-5 p.m.), when Covington’s Historic Downtown Square channels Victorian England. Costumed characters from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol stroll the streets; you shop, eat and enjoy the entertainment – caroling, storytelling, puppet shows, street performances, carriage rides… I also like how the town is putting its historic Ruffin Theatre to comedic use, screening A Christmas Story Dec. 6, 7, 13 and 14 at 7 p.m.; Dec. 8 and 15 at 2 p.m.

Covington's town square is big on history and retail, and the shops really get in the spirit. Here, the Hatchie River Emporium and Haberdashery looks its festive finest.

Covington’s town square is big on history and retail, and the shops really get in the spirit. Here, the Hatchie River Emporium and Haberdashery looks its festive finest. Photo courtesy of Covington – Tipton County Chamber of Commerce.

Eva Inside Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park, “The Knob” refers to one of West Tennessee’s highest points (by night, a twinkling view of the Tennessee River lit by surrounding towns). November 30 at 6 p.m., experience the Lighting of the Knob when sparkling trees and holiday decorations will be revealed, accompanied by Santa, carolers, music and refreshments. Admission is free, but canned food donations will be accepted.

Henderson Spend a day shopping and soaking in the sweetness of Rich and Valeria Pitoni’s Stillwaters Farm. The couple has long welcomed farm stays complete with cottage accommodations and animal interactions, but a converted silo on property now offers Valeria’s handmade soaps and candles. During Stillwaters Farm’s Holiday Open House (Dec. 7, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.), you can shop the silo as well as arts and crafts by other vendors, watch demos, take a hayride, visit with Santa (and of course, the farm’s many animals).

Inside, it's a shop full of farm-made soaps, candles, creams and art. Photos courtesy of Stillwaters Farm.

December 7, shop the Silo at Stillwaters Farm for farm-made soaps, candles, creams and art. (Photos courtesy of Stillwaters Farm.)

Jackson Jackson’s twist on shopping local isn’t new – the Jackson Holiday Mart has attracted shoppers for more than 40 years, and the merchants – this year numbering more than 100 sellers of antiques, clothing, jewelry, edibles and the like – represent small towns and big cities throughout the Mid-South with an emphasis on West Tennessee purveyors. Shop Nov. 22, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Nov. 23, 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and Nov. 24, noon to 5 p.m. Tickets ($5 in advance; $10 at the door) are already on sale, and The Mart complements shopping with special events including teas, children’s workshops and an irresistible bakeshop – details here.  December 2 at 6:45 p.m., the Annual Jackson Christmas Parade cruises through downtown, but arrive early for the tree lighting (5:15 p.m.).

Memphis Tree lightings and dazzling displays are everywhere this season in Memphis (try Memphis Zoo’s Zoo Lights, Shelby Farms Park’s Starry Nights or Memphis Botanic Garden’s Snowy Nights). But I relish the richness of landmarks like Graceland and The Peabody embellished in their holiday finest.

November 22 through Jan. 8, 2014, Elvis’ original decorations come out of storage. Tour Graceland to see hundreds of blue lights lining the driveway and a life-sized Nativity scene, along with Santa and his sleigh, popping up (inside, red velvet drapes and Presley family holiday treasures dazzle). Or, attend the Graceland Tree Lighting Ceremony (Nov. 22), promising photo ops with a rock-and-roll Santa.

Note the red velvet drapes on the right: They're an original holiday addition Elvis made to the Graceland living room. Image used by permission, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

Note the red velvet drapes on the right: They’re an original holiday addition Elvis made to the Graceland living room. Image used by permission, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

The Peabody Holiday Tree Lighting (Nov. 29, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.) is a free fete involving Santa’s arrival, the illumination of the 30-foot Grand Lobby tree with 20,000 lights, performances by local choirs and the unveiling of The Peabody pastry team’s Christmas Village (this year, themed “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”).

Neat to know: It takes 20 florists and seven hours to install and trim The Peabody Memphis’ main Christmas tree. You’ll find an additional 11 Christmas trees (and 600 feet of garland) decorating the property this season.

What does it take to trim The Peabody Memphis Christmas Tree?

Memphis bonus gift: The Pink Palace Museum presents all kinds of gifts for visitors each November and December. We like to start with Santa’s arrival (via helicopter) on the front lawn of the museum. After landing, Santa leads the procession of families inside to officially open the Enchanted Forest, the museum’s cuddly display of woodland creatures preparing for the holidays, capped by pictures with Santa. Check IMAX and planetarium schedules before you go, as they always host winter- and holiday-themed shows.

The Pink Palace Museum, Memphis, TN

That’s Santa and his helicopter moments after landing on the front lawn of Memphis’ Pink Palace Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Pink Palace.)

Paris The “Downtown Unwrapped” series of events illuminates the heart of northwest Tennessee’s Paris – a pretty hub of boutiques for gifts, antiques, jewelry and clothing with coffee- and sweet shops sprinkled in. Start Nov. 29 (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) with North Pole Family Fun Day, when shops and free activities for families invite. That’s also a good day to take in beautiful Paris Landing State Park and its annual Christmas by the Lake Arts and Crafts Festival (the festival begins at 3 p.m. on Nov. 29 and concludes Sun., Dec. 1 at 5 p.m. See the park’s website for full details.).

Photos courtesy of Downtown Paris Association.

By the end of November, downtown Paris will be transformed into a winter playground full of decorated trees, appearances by Santa on Courthouse Square and a flurry of holiday-themed, family-friendly activities. (Photo courtesy of Downtown Paris Association.)

Then, drop in for any of the following: Candlelight Advent Walk among downtown churches (Dec. 4, 6:30 p.m.); Christmas Community Concert featuring Handel’s “Messiah” (Dec. 8, 3 p.m., First United Methodist Church); Christmas Festival & Parade (Dec. 14 from 2-4 p.m. for the festival; 4:30 p.m. for the parade); Festival of Trees (view decorated trees inside the Paris-Henry County Heritage Center, a 1916 Italian Renaissance Revival mansion, Saturdays noon to 6 p.m. and Sundays 1-4 p.m. between Dec. 10 and 23). Saturdays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Sundays (2-4 p.m.) throughout December, Santa will be present in Courthouse Square. For questions about any of Paris’ holiday events, click here or call 731-653-7274.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Paris Association.

With a rich collection of historic churches, downtown Paris hosts an annual Candlelight Advent Walk (this year, on Dec. 4). Photo courtesy of Downtown Paris Association.

Oh, and one more gift before I go: Earlier this month, Southwest Airlines launched nonstop service from Memphis to Baltimore, Houston (Hobby), Orlando, Chicago (Midway) and Tampa Bay. More (cheaper!) ways to travel to the Bluff City? I’m on board.

Unwrap more holiday events throughout Tennessee here. In the meantime, tell me – what’s your favorite holiday to-do in Tennessee?

Hi! I’m Samantha Crespo, and I am Floridian by birth, Tennessean by heart. Growing up, I vacationed in East Tennessee, so I...Read on

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