This piece was originally published in the Winter 2015-2016 issue of Our Jackson Home: The Magazine.
Christmas was a big deal at my house. Throughout December, every radio (one in each room) was tuned to the same station, promising no escape from that beautiful—though maddening, for some—collection of classic standards and contemporary holiday tunes. That little kid, still roaming the corridors of my psyche, remembers Dad sitting next to the radio, waiting patiently to hear each of his perennial favorites, while Mom baked cookies destined to be set upon festive red and green trays. Christmas was everything beautiful to me, which at that time was presents, a break from school, and, of course, little baby Jesus.
But there was always something unspoken, something essential, something ethereal, which even then I knew but couldn’t name. I don’t know that I can name it now, though I am older and allegedly wiser. For want of a more profound expression, I will call it the Spirit of Christmas. Everywhere I turned, it seemed to linger. That spirit was in neighbors’ smiles and in the laughter shared by friends and family in sweaters and snow boots.
What I pull from these ghosts of Christmases past is that truly, these times are special because of the people. Relatives who have since passed on, friends that come and go from your life at that age when two years feels like a lifetime. And, even as I write this, it’s easy to take for granted those who remain with us, who have been here every step of the way. It’s the people who make the magic, that Spirit of Christmas, and that is as true today as ever.
Our city is full of wonderful folks who embody this spirit of Christmas through their love for our community. They spend the year feeding the homeless, providing care to underprivileged children, and doing so much more to make Jackson a better place for us all to call home. Several of these individuals, along with the organizations through which they serve, have decided to join together to bring the Spirit of Christmas to downtown.
On Saturday, December 5, from 1 to 5 p.m., twenty-six non-profit agencies are coming together to celebrate “Christmas in the City” at the West Tennessee Farmers’ Market. This represents the first such mobilization of this number of local service groups, as part of Jackson’s Season of Unity. The aim is to create a fun-filled afternoon for local families while drawing awareness to the needs of those in our community and what these groups are doing to help meet those needs. Each agency will host a booth as a way of thanking the community for its yearlong support, and all proceeds from the booths and activities will benefit the participating non-profits. There will be pictures with Santa, a toy workshop, hot chocolate, choral singers, a cakewalk, the Salvation Army angel tree, face painting, and much more. Perhaps most exciting is Santa’s promise to bring his live reindeer. The Shops of Jackson Walk will also have extended hours to accommodate visitors.
These organizations are, of course, collections of individuals doing crucial work. These folks truly make miracles happen every day in our city. Whether feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or clothing the threadbare, these selfless people remind us that we can perform Christmas miracles every day. Something as simple as sharing a laugh or making someone smile. That little kid in my head, now mostly grown-up, realizes that Christmas means community. It means remembering the world is much bigger than each of us, but that, somehow, each of us is a force in the world. When we are all so focused on commerce or arguing about Starbucks cups, let us remember that, as George Bailey reminded his neighbors, we are all in this together, this holiday season and the whole year round. The Spirit of Christmas doesn’t have to be relegated to a date on a calendar.
Downtown and midtown will offer numerous opportunities to make the first weekend of December merry and bright, beginning with the lighting of Campbell Lake on Friday and the LANA Home Tour lasting all weekend. The Jackson Symphony’s annual Christmas concert will follow Christmas in the City on Saturday, and Monday night will see the Annual Christmas Parade through downtown. Read about all the holiday events happening in Jackson on our community calendar page.
Matt Altobell is the Executive Director of Jackson Downtown Development Corporation. A native of Columbia, Tennessee, Matt came to Jackson in the fall of 2003 to attend Lambuth University, where he majored in Communications with an emphasis in Video and Film Studies. He has chosen to make Jackson his home since college, save for a brief prodigal return to the rolling hills and fabled plateau of his youth. He is a classic film and progressive rock fanatic.
Header image by Katie Howerton.