Cities across the country transform each December into festive winter wonderlands in celebration of the holiday season. From our small towns to our metropolitan areas, Oklahoma is rich with Christmas traditions. From tree lightings, cheerful train rides, festivals, holiday performances and shimmering light displays, Oklahomans have a wealth of ways to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year.
More than 1,500 Oklahoma students, their teachers and parents decorate 26 4-foot-tall Christmas trees that will adorn the Capitol building throughout the holiday season, each with its own creative theme. The students at the annual celebration are treated to a fun day of activities including storytellers, musical entertainment and more in return for their hard work. While the tree-lighting ceremony this year was on Nov. 29, the trees are available for viewing both indoors and outdoors thoughout the season.
The story of The Polar Express has worked its way into the hearts of many. Fans of the tale can climb aboard a magical train ride that recreates all of the sights and sounds captured in the beloved book and movie including golden tickets, dancing chefs, hot chocolate and the jolly elf himself, Santa. Departing from the Eastern Flyer Station in Stillwater on select days through Dec. 23, the hourlong train ride takes passengers to the North Pole, where Santa boards the train to give each child a silver sleigh bell. Passengers are encouraged to board the train wearing their pajamas – just like the characters in the story. Tickets start at $22 for children 12 and under and $32 for passengers 13 years old and up. Find all the details at easternflyerpolarexpressride.com.
The Nutcracker ballet is the very definition of a holiday tradition. Generations have grown up watching sugar plum fairies, toy soldiers, the Mouse King and the heroic Nutcracker prince. Perhaps what makes this ballet so loved is the vast cast of children that perform in the magical story on stage each performance, embodying the youthful spirit of the season. Over the years, The Nutcracker has evolved with many distinct interpretations and adaptations.
The Oklahoma City Ballet performs the classic tale set in 19th-century Russia. Clara and her fanciful dreamlike world sets the stage for professional dancers and more than 100 children to craft an experience the whole family can enjoy. The ballet is adding a new feature to their performance line up this year. On Dec. 18, families can enjoy a Nutcracker Tea, where favorite characters will bring the Kingdom of Sweets to life. Tickets to the tea are $30 and all ages are welcome to attend. The Oklahoma City Ballet performances begin Dec. 10 and tickets start at $26.
In contrast, the Tulsa Ballet takes their Nutcracker tale on a unique journey to 1920s Paris, providing the story an intimate connection with the city’s Art Deco architecture. The magical journey of the young Marie Stahlbaum combines the visual appeal of a Broadway show with the Nutcracker’s heartwarming Christmas fairytale. Local children take part in this production as well, helping a larger-than-life Mouse King battle the Nutcracker prince and his toy soldiers. The Tulsa Ballet takes the stage beginning Dec. 10 and tickets start at $25.
There are a variety of Christmas light displays across the state, including:
Yukon’s Christmas in the Park
Through Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m.
Woodward’s Crystal Christmas
Through Dec. 31, 6-10 p.m.
Chickasha’s Festival of Light
Through Dec. 31, Sunday-Thursday, 6-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 6-11 p.m.
Broken Arrow’s Rhema Lights
Through Jan. 1, 5:30-11:30 p.m.
Muskogee’s Garden of Lights
Through Dec. 31
Downs Family Christmas Lights
Through Jan. 3
Woolaroc Wonderland of Lights
Dec. 2 – 23, Friday – Sunday, 5-9 p.m.
Touring a light display is a holiday rite of passage. Oklahomans of all ages cheerfully welcome the wonder and magic of the season crafted by the soft glow of twinkling Christmas lights. All across our state, communities big and small come together for their dazzling winter displays. While each Oklahoma family has their favorites they visit each year, our state is proudly home to a few displays that have been taken to the national stage. Chickasha’s annual Festival of Light was named one of the top 10 light displays in the nation, and the Downs family of Norman gained notoriety as they competed in the first season of ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight. So bundle up in your mittens and scarves or cozy up in the warmth of a car and enjoy sparkling winter time show or two!
In the early hours of what is sure to be a crisp morning on Dec. 10, runners sporting shades of red and green will take a festive jog through the streets of downtown OKC, starting from and finishing at Leadership Square. With a variety of distances from the kids’ dash to the one-mile fun run and a 5K race, Okies of all ages are welcome to join in the Yuletide run and the costume contest that will follow. Medals will be awarded for the top three male and female finishers in each age bracket, and cash prizes will go to the top three winners of the costume contest. OKC Thunder mascot Rumble and the Thunder girls will be there to cheer you on. The day’s festivities will also include a Mad Science presentation called “The Case for Santa” and a free photo booth. Register today at downtownindecember.com/sandridge-santa-run.
Many Main Streets across our state will celebrate the Christmas season with a jovial parade, but Oklahoma City’s parade sets itself apart by floating down the Oklahoma River on Dec. 18. Marking the parade’s 12th year, Oklahomans can enjoy an exciting holiday ski show and festive floating light displays that usher in the arrival of Santa. The evening’s celebrations end with a bang in the form of a fireworks show. Spectators are also welcome to enjoy all the excitement and fun that the Boathouse District has to offer in its RIVERSPORT Adventures. Parade activities begin at 6 p.m.
Tulsa will hold its Christmas parade at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. The parade, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, begins on Boston Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets. This year, reserved bleacher seating is available along the parade route so Oklahomans looking to get into the Christmas spirit will have a close look at all the floats, balloons and marching bands. For more information, visit tulsachristmasparade.org.