Merry Texas Christmas Y’all! (from Lisa Wingate)

Merry Texas Christmas, y’all! This week on the porch, I’d like to share a bit of our Christmas season and what makes it special in this neck of the woods.

One of my favorite things about Christmas in Central Texas, is that it’s always a mystery. You never know, in terms of the weather, what Christmas will bring. After Christmas dinner, we may be playing a game of family baseball or tossing a football in the yard in our shirtsleeves, or we may be curled up by the fire with a big ol’ Texas wind howling outside and an inch of snow on the ground. Either way, I love Christmas deep in the heart of Texas. It’s filled with traditions from the melting pot of cultures that make up this wide, wonderful state.

Here are a few of our favorites high points of a truly Texas Christmas:

Tamales. Can’t have Christmas around here without them. While these *can* be purchased at the store, in any community of any size, you’ll find families gathering together to form tamale-making assembly lines, creating literally hundreds of these handmade treasures–some to keep and some to sell. Once you get on a good tamale-maker’s list, if you’re smart, you keep a standing order in from year to year. We serve our tamales on Christmas Eve, with what we lovingly call our “junk food buffet.” Tucked among cheese in all its holiday forms, and piles of Christmas candy, the tamales are generally the healthiest thing on the table. One interesting factoid about tamales–making them as a family is a long-standing tradition in many families of Hispanic heritage. As girls grow and hone their tamale-making skills, they work their way up the assembly line from sorting and washing corn shucks to the more delicate and critical jobs.


Trail of Lights. Christmas is a beautiful time to tour small towns of the Hill Country. Rich in German heritage, local towns roll out the red carpet (and some really good shop-ortunities) for the annual Christmas Lighting Trail. The lights are amazing, the German delicacies are plentiful, historic churches everywhere await Advent visitors, and beautiful, historic small-town main streets lend an old-fashioned pioneer charm to the holiday. We hit the trail over the weekend for some shopping in historic Fredericksburg, then snapped a few pictures of the lights in Johnson City on the way home. Beautiful, and the best thing about these lights were the scores of children running around underneath these ancient live oak trees, doing what children do this time of year–reveling in the joy and anticipation of Christmas.


Luminarias. Luminarias are another tradition from south-of-the-border. There’s nothing quite like the adobe walls in San Antonio, lined with twinkling luminarias. You can buy plastic luminarias now, but back in the day, Texans made these from paper lunch bags with a little sand in the bottom and a lighted candle inside. There’s something peaceful about the way luminarias look on a winter night. The new plastic ones are nice, but (all fire hazards aside) I like the old-fashioned kind best.




The Christmas Pickle. There’s some debate about the true origin of the tradition of hanging a glass pickle on your Christmas tree, but it’s said to be a German tradition, and that’s good enough for us. You’ll find glass pickles in homes and stores throughout the Hill Country. On Christmas eve, Santa hides the pickle somewhere in the tree and leaves a special gift for the first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning. (Parental note here — To avoid all-out warfare and/or the dreaded Christmas sulk, it’s not a bad idea to make sure the “Pickle Present” is something that can be shared and enjoyed by all, like a puzzle or a game (ummm… learned that the hard way ;o)

That’s a little bit of Christmas in my neck of the woods. What makes the season special where you are? Wherever this week finds you, I hope it finds you brimming with joy and anticipation as we count down the days to Christmas!

Wishing you a great, big ol’ Texas blessing from our house to yours!


I’m having a great big Reader Appreciation Giveaway!  Every day this week, I’ll be giving away gift certificates for sea glass jewelry in Sandy’s Seashell Shop.


To see some of the prizes, click here.

To ENTER the Reader Appreciation Contest, click here.



Click for peek at The Prayer Box

 Click for sneak peek at The Sea Glass Sisters








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  1. Julie says

    Lisa, you’re making me want to Christmas in Texas! I love these beautiful photos. We visited historic Fredericksburg about twenty years ago and loved it. I’m thinking we’re due another visit. And I’ve always wondered what those pickle ornaments were supposed to represent. Thanks for the informative holiday lesson today.
    Happy Christmas!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Julie, Fredericksburg is so much fun, especially at Christmas. The Hill country is filled with little towns that offer fun shopping and strolling… and wonderful Christmas hospitality. Come back and visit us ;)

  2. Shellie says

    Lisa, my mother has always hidden a glass pickle on her tree. During our family Christmas the grands (and now her great grands) try to fnd it and win a prize! The tree takes a licking and is barely ticking when it’s over. :) Merry Christmas you the belles and freaders (friend/readers) of SBV!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Awww… Someone else who has the pickle tradition. My kids always enjoyed the pickle fun. Which reminds me… I need to think of this year’s pickle present (or, I mean Santa does). Even big boys like to hunt for the pickle ornament!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      yes, the pickle is a big deal around here. I’d never heard of it growing up, but when we moved to the Hill Country, so many people had them on their trees and there were little baskets of them for sale in local stores. A new family tradition was born.

      Blessings to you and your sweet family this Christmas, Jolina!

  3. Lorraine Fuller says

    We also love Christmas in Central Texas. I remember our first Christmas with our oldest son, I was so excited for it, he was also the first grand child so he had a lot of attention. However, Christmas morning he sat on his aunts lap and everything was over in like five minutes. So we added some traditions meant to stretch things. Christmas eve is big for us. Our tradition includes frozen pizza (yeah, my kids picked it) hot chocolate and cookies. There is also a set schedule. We have a selection of videos and books that are read by dad. The first thing that happens is the get a gift from mom and dad and it’s always pajamas, sometimes matching, sometimes something fitting that child. They go and put the new pajamas on and race to the TV for the first book or movie (even though my youngest is now 13 they still want the same books and movies) After the first one the youngest child takes center stage and gets to give out his gifts. Some years they are things bought at the school store set up for the kids by the PTA, other years the gifts or hand made and other years we take them shopping to the dollar store. The gifts are distributed one at a time and each one celebrated. This way we put the giving part ahead of the getting as we make a huge deal about how good they did on the gifts. Then there is another book and video. During the books and videos mom is cooking the pizza, I know what extra toppings each kid likes and bring them the food in the TV room (not a normal thing) I also bring hot chocolate with candy canes for stirring and later cookies and more hot chocolate. Eventually each child gets a turn in the spotlight. The second to last story is the night before Christmas and the very last is the Christmas story from the Bible and a devotion. Then the younger kids head to bed. The stockings are then hidden by santa, there are clues for each child left all over the house. (they use of some of that Christmas morning energy running up and down the stairs to follow clues, when we had little ones that could not read, the older kids last clue would tell them to help their siblings and the stockings would be hidden together) This gives mom time to have a cup of coffee and put cinnamon rolls in the oven. They run to the table with the stockings and dig through the loot. It used to be mostly candy and small toys, but now that they are older gift cards are common (especially for my poor college kids) jewelry for girls, small tools for boys, but still some candy. Then we move on to the gifts. The gifts appear a few days before Christmas now, they are all numbered, no names. Mom has a magic clipboard with the names. We open gifts one at a time, the first gifts may be socks, fun toothbrushes, or other kind of boring stuff. The generally rotate youngest to oldest, but gifts for dad or gifts for everyone (movies, games) are thrown in randomly to ensure those present shakers won’t figure out the pattern. The very last gifts are the big ones. One year they all got rolls of bubble wrap to play with. (that got loud as we had six kids in the house that year!) Anyway, gifts are again done one at a time, with admiration or jokes about each one. Then they get dressed and we drive to Grandma’s house. But those are our family traditions. Our kids really like them, and it will be interesting to see what gets passed on to their children.

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Can I just come spend Christmas at your house? i love all of your Christmas traditions. What a lovely way to make the excitement last and celebrate the giving of every gift, not just the wild abandon of getting. Beautiful!

  4. says

    You said it, girlfriend! We love our big ‘ol Texas Christmas! We started the Christmas pickle tradition last year and the kiddos love it! Like you said, it’s best that the gift be one that can be shared! :) Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Yes, we do! I’m glad there’s a pickle on your tree, Britney! We always felt like it added a little extra thrill after all the presents were opened. Something else to look forward to.

      Merry Christmas to you over there in East Texas!


  5. Rachel Hauck says

    Lisa, I LOVE that Christmas pickle. It took me years to get used to Christmas in the south… I should say in FL… since I my younger years were spent north of the Mason Dixon.

    But now, I love our sunny days and “thin breeze” Christmas. I’ve not yet put lights or tinsel in a palm tree, but ya never know…

    Lovely post… as always.


    • Lisa Wingate says

      Rachel, what a beautiful description — a “thin breeze” Christmas. that makes me think of Christmases in Florida when I was little. Because we were in Florida, we had a lot of Christmas company. All the relatives lived in colder places. That made for some fun Christmas holidays!


  6. Karen Mullen says

    We bake traditional Slovak Christmas Cookies, and we also go on a hunt for a Christmas Tree to chop down at a Christmas Tree farm :) Also, I love to watch Christmas movies (I’ve bought several of my favorites on DVD so I don’t miss any )

    • Lisa Wingate says

      We love our Christmas movies, too, and there’s nothing more fun that cutting a Christmas tree. WE haven’t done that in years. Maybe we’ll have to decide to go with a real tree sometime soon.

      The Slovak Christmas cookie tradition sounds like one my guys would like ;)

  7. Melanie Backus says

    I loved reading about your Texas traditions. Only in Texas can you wear shirtsleeves one day and long johns the next. I love Mexican food on Christmas Eve and a big ole platter of tamales hits the spot. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2014! Love you, girlfriend!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Yes, ma’am, this Texas weather is crazy, isn’t it? I’m glad to see the sun today!

      Merry Christmas right back to you. Hugs and wishes for a wonderful 2014 for you and your family, Melanie!!


  8. says

    The first Christmas we spent in our “new” home 16 years ago was just after a major ice storm. We had no power for a week and a half. Living in N.Louisiana, we have very unpredictable weather, too. Thankfully we had plenty of fire wood for our fireplace, and made beds in the living room to stay warm by the fire all night. This went through almost New Year’s Day, so that meant we spent Christmas Eve in the living room, also. (Made Christmas interesting…..:-D ) We opened gifts and stockings the next morning, and had so much fun. My then 5 year old daughter thought it was so much fun to spend Christmas this way that she said we should do that every year even if we did have power. And we have done just that. Our children are grown; the daughter being 21. We WILL do that again this year, and with our grandchildren one of these years if they are here for Christmas Eve.

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