An Eventful Holiday Season

By Tripp Liles

Seems like only yesterday I was writing about the coming summer events and here we are staring the end of 2017 right in the face. With the end in sight that means the holiday season is here, which means different things to different people. Let’s try to avoid running up credit card bills and instead celebrate the return of cool weather and a season that offers something for us all to celebrate.

The metro Atlanta area is one of the most diverse in the nation and that holds true for those of us in the suburbs. The Current Hub is located on Canton Street in Roswell and within just a couple of miles are houses of worship for nearly every faith on Earth. And that diversity is represented in the numerous activities available. No matter your religion, background, temperament or even food restriction, there is something going on that is sure to pique your interest before we say goodbye to 2017.

The actual event of Thanksgiving is one that we sometimes take for granted. It doesn’t have a lobbying body in Congress nor a fancy public relations firm but it shows up every year reminding us to give thanks. But do we really? This year think differently. While the corporate media machine, in no way shape or form will convey this to you, we live in the most peaceful prosperous times in history. No we’re not perfect, but I’ve got it a lot better than my grandparents and so do you and let’s not forget that.

Fortunately we have Thanksgiving, a holiday that has developed its own identity in the modern era and now stands for family, humility, grace, and of course, gratefulness. It is a holiday that unifies Americans and reminds us that we are all family and we are all lucky to be here.

Nothing upholds the values of this holiday quite like the annual Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta. At this unique gathering, congregants and visitors from more than 17 different religions will gather together on Nov. 16 to celebrate everything that unifies us as Americans and as human beings. Faith leaders from religious groups all over town will speak, give thanks, tell jokes, play music, and share stories as they would with their own families. If you are one of those folks obsessed with social media and feel you’ve lost faith in humanity I strongly suggest putting the phone down and attending this event. To say it is uplifting is not doing it justice.

There will be a reception following the service that gives visitors the chance to mingle with new people, learn about their religions and try delicious new foods. This event is not to be missed! Stuck at home that night? Don’t sweat it, the entire service will be live streamed on the Temple Kol Emeth website. Check out www.kolemeth.net for more details.

When it comes to holiday magic, we in the south don’t exactly have seasonal weather featuring snow but we can always count on finding fantastic displays of holiday lights. Few do lights quite like the Atlanta Botanical Garden with Garden Lights, Holiday Nights, a seven-year tradition that will return this year with the most wondrous electrical spectacular yet. Wander through the luscious gardens, which remain amazingly vibrant in the cold night air, and visit old favorites like the Orchestral Orbs, the Glittering Galaxy, and the Radiant Rainforest as well as new additions like the Walk of Flames and the newly expanded Tunnel of Light. Many of the light displays are set to holiday music for a show that appeals to all of the senses. Despite the fairly long run of the exhibit, tickets always go quickly and are best purchased in advance. Add a dinner reservation at Longleaf to make it a completely indulgent evening. The exhibit will kick off on Nov. 11 and carry on through Jan. 7. Ticket prices vary on peak nights. Visit www.atlantabg.org to plan your visit.

Roswell is a city that is steeped in history and tradition, which gives it the platform to do the holidays like no other city around. Throughout the months of November and December, join this historic old town for Christmas in Roswell & Other Holiday Events in a wide reaching menu of holiday themed gatherings that include old world parties in historic homes, Thanksgiving dinners, a holiday “bizarre,” Santa’s Secret Gift shop, caroling on Canton Street, Reindeer Day at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, musical performances, open houses at local boutiques, Chanukah and Shabbat dinner, and so much more. This also includes, of course, the stunning annual performance of The Nutcracker by the Roswell Dance Theatre. Whether you’re in need of a big family outing, a spontaneous night of fun with friends, a date night or a date with yourself, there are more than enough happenings in Roswell to keep everyone occupied during the holidays. For more information, visit www.visitroswellga.com, or if you are on the Historic Square in Roswell stop by the Roswell Visitors Center located at 617 S. Atlanta Street where they have information on all of the events happening through the holidays.

The Alpharetta Christmas Tree Lighting is unlike any other in the area. This city takes tree lighting to another level with the addition of a big celebration in Downtown Alpharetta that draws hundreds of residents and visitors alike. In addition to lighting the 45-foot live spruce with more than 10,000 white lights, this event offers a chance to visit Santa and Mrs. Clause, enjoy live performances, shop a Christmas farmer’s market, roast marshmallows around a big community fire, and indulge in some of Alpharetta’s most popular restaurants and food trucks. Drop the kids off at Snow Playground and get all of your Christmas shopping done early! Then pick them back up for a special reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Mayor Belle Isle and family. Make an evening of it this Dec. 2 from 5:00 p.m.–9 p.m., with the official tree lighting at 7 p.m. If that isn’t enough to get you in the holiday spirit, add a trip to Avalon on Ice for an evening of Rockefeller Center style skating. For more see awesomealpharetta.com.

If the ice skating at Avalon is not enough to satisfy your winter itch then the folks at Stone Mountain Park have got your covered… in snow. When it comes to weather, there is no doubt that Northern Georgia is one of the most attractive places to live. Warm summer nights and mild winters make for an outdoor lifestyle that can’t be beat. Some neighbors to the north, however, boast that their winters feature the one thing much of Georgia can’t offer… snow. We southerners say, “check mate” each year as Stone Mountain creates the Atlanta area’s own winter wonderland with Snow Mountain. Snow Mountain uses artificial snow to create opportunities for tubing, snowman building, snow angel making and some of the most intense snowball fights south of the Mason Dixon. So, with all due respect to our neighbors to the north… y’all ain’t got nothing on us. Grab the family and make your way to Snow Mountain starting Nov. 11 and stretching into the New Year. Learn more at stonemountainpark.com.

Perhaps the traditional seasonal activities are not your thing so why not try some theatre? The metro area is home to some really underrated performance houses and the talent that drives them. The Georgia Ensemble Theatre will have the Topher Payne comedy Morningside running through Nov. 12 at their home in the Roswell Cultural Arts Center.

Another, more seasonally themed play, The Santaland Diaries, is based on an essay by satirical writer David Sedaris. He shares the story of a disenchanted, down-on-his-luck Macy’s Department Store elf named Crumpet as he navigates the sickly sweet world of commercialized Christmas with entitled children, overly indulgent parents and a costume that rips away all sense of dignity. An out-of-work writer by day, Crumpet decides to make his experience more of an investigative one into the world of Christmas elves.

Though fabulous and hilarious in its execution, this is one show that is not family friendly, so leave the little ones (or any less mature friends and relatives) at home. If you do have children, Horizon Theatre also offers a charming musical adaptation of Ludwig Bemelmans’ classic storybook Madeline’s Christmas, featuring 24 local girls performing alongside professional actors. For show times and more info visit horizontheatre.com.

These are just a few events and activities to keep you occupied this holiday season. So no matter if you recognize Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Omisoka, Mawlid al-Nabi, or Bodhi Day, remember to celebrate the diversity that keeps us strong.