A holiday tradition

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, December 4, 2010

Austin Utilities hangs up the traditional Main Street lights last week. The lights are lit each year by Santa Claus at Christmas in the City. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

In Austin, traditions range from Santa Claus visiting the mall from the North Pole every year, to Christmas in the City the day after Thanksgiving, to the decorations that deck the streets of downtown every year.

“Traditions are important,” Sandy Forstner, executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce, said. “Certainly our downtown area belongs to everybody. It’s the heart of our city.”

Forstner said Christmas in the City is meant to be an old fashioned holiday celebration at which community members can come together and enjoy open houses at local retailers.

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And, of course, there’s Santa.

“Santa leads a parade of kids and holiday characters to the center of town and magically turns on the downtown Christmas decorations,” Forstner said.

After that, Santa can be found at the Oak Park Mall every weekend until Christmas Eve.

Shan Kehret of the Oak Park Mall said Santa will be at the mall every Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. and every Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. until Christmas. He will also be there from 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 20-22 and 4 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 23.

Kids can come and have their photo taken with Santa and ask him what they want for Christmas, but parents are encouraged to bring their own camera, Kehret said.

“And then he goes back to the North Pole,” she said.

Kehret also said Kathy from Savory Skillet will be at the mall on weekends with cookies and hot chocolate for holiday shoppers and visitors of Santa.

Forstner said Christmas in Austin, particularly the Christmas in the City celebration, is family and tradition focused.

“It’s an opportunity for not only shoppers, but all residents to come downtown and look at the holiday decorations … and enjoy the sights of Christmas,” he said. “Austin has quite a history of Christmas decorations over the years; our decorations are as fine as you’ll find anywhere.”