In my past life, the whole Christmas season thing was something that I dreaded and couldn't wait to see behind me. Christmas was a time to go to church way more than usual (which in my house growing up might have seemed impossible) and to master a nonchalant demeanor when I returned to school after the break and had to answer (all day it seemed like) that I didn't get anything for Christmas, but it's not a big deal. Back then, my parents could only afford to make a really big meal and wish Jesus a happy birthday and that's it. I didn't have the kind of parents who would go into debt for the sake of a happy holiday. So by adulthood, it wasn't an act. I really didn't care about Christmas. I'd listen to friends and coworkers go on about black Friday and fuss over buying gifts for cousins and siblings and nephews, parents, pets and neighbors, and I couldn't sympathize because it wasn't that serious--it's Jesus' birthday, not yours. Then unto me a child was born. Unto me a gift was given, and his name was Zachary and he brought with him the joy of Christmas.
I remember when it happened--not the exact date, but the moment it happened. I was driving into a shopping center here in town with my 21 month old son riding in the back seat. The radio station we listen to had started playing Christmas songs 24/7 beginning the day after Thanksgiving. I had left it on that station only because I hadn't searched to find another station that played the perfect mix of music from yesterday and today and would get to it later. Jingle Bell Rock came on and about 2.5 seconds after I heard my baby son sing, in the sweetest toddler monotone , "jee gabell jee gabell jee gabell WOCK!", I literally felt a breathy tightness in my chest as my grinchy heart grew three sizes that day and I knew that I was about to be all jamming to Christmas songs on the radio every day from Black Friday until New Years Eve and Santa hat family photos and hanging lights on the tree and wrapping presents on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning home videos for the next 16 years.
Also in my future would be Christmasy events around town every year like The Domain's Lighting of the Great Tree event here in Austin, TX. This free, annual event which culminates outside of Macy's and is punctuated with fireworks at the end of the night is happening this year on Saturday, November 23 beginning at noon. In it's seventh year, the Lighting of the Great Tree will feature holiday performances by acclaimed singer and songwriter Phil Vassar, the Outside Voices youth choir and a 40-foot tree, featuring more than 6,000 twinkling lights and 400 Grinch-heart-morphing ornaments.
Headlining the event, Phil Vassar made his debut on the country music scene in the late 1990s, co-writing singles for several country artists, including Tim McGraw, Jo Dee Messina, Collin Raye and Alan Jackson. The Virginia native has received two ASCAP Songwriter of the Year trophies, been recognized as Billboard Country Songwriter of the Year, released eight albums and countless hits as a singer and songwriter and has even launched his own Rodeowave Entertainment label.
The holiday celebration will also feature a special performance by Outside Voices, a vocal performance group founded in 2009. Outside Voices is open to all Austin and surrounding area youth with performers ranging in age from K-12th grades. The group is dedicated to carrying the message of grace and love through their performances and service work.
In addition to The Lighting of The Great Tree at 6 pm, free holiday entertainment will kick-off at noon with family-friendly activities including children’s holiday music, face painting, caricature drawings, balloon twisting and holiday crafts near iPic Theaters. Many stores will also be offering special in-store events and offers throughout the day. Following the tree lighting, attendees are invited to enjoy marshmallow roasting in The Park.
The Domain Lighting of The Great Tree is FREE and open to the public. For more information, please call (512) 873-8099, or visit www.TheDomainInAustin.com. Area shoppers looking for the latest deals, contests and event information can also visit www.facebook.com/TheDomainAustin, www.twitter.com/TheDomainAustin or www.instagram.com/TheDomainAustin.
Are you a reformed Scrooge, like me? Or were you a baby Elf who still wears your peppermint striped tights underneath your grown-up clothes until holiday season every year?