The San Antonio River Walk embraces the holiday spirit by lighting up the cypress trees that guide you through the heart of San Antonio. Photo Courtesy of The River Walk

Alamo City gears up for holiday festivities as December quickly approaches.

Thanksgiving is over, and all around San Antonio, things are beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The halls of businesses and tourist destinations around San Antonio are fully decked, and there are plenty of events to help you get into the spirit.

A great way to get into the spirit for both UTSA and the holidays is by attending Light the Paseo. On Thursday, Nov. 30 at the University Center (UC) Paseo from 7 to 10 p.m., students can enjoy performances, free food and the lighting of the Paseo. Hosted by the Roadrunner Pantry, this event is a great way to ring in the season in your own backyard.

Many events are happening beyond our beautiful campus. In fact, there’s one happening at Six Flags’ Holiday in the Park. They have many attractions, such as their new Winter Wonderland, the North Pole Reflections, a Christmas tree lighting on Dec. 23 and more. Holiday in the Park began Nov. 18 and ends on Jan. 7. Be sure to buy your tickets on campus at the UC Roadrunner Express to save money.

For those of you who enjoy the hustle and bustle of downtown, there are the lights on the River Walk. Here you can enjoy the spectacular display of 122,000 lights draped over the towering bald cypress trees that line the San Antonio River. The famous holiday lights on the River Walk are lit on each year the day after Thanksgiving and remain on from dusk to dawn until Jan. 2. This year the lights will remain on until Jan. 7. The event is free, and it wouldn’t be a San Antonian Christmas without it.

So you’ve hit the lights at the River Walk, but what’s Christmas in San Antonio without tamales? If you’re in need of a tamale fix, there are two events that are perfect for you. La Tamalada at the Witte Museum and the Tamales! Holiday Festival at the Pearl. A tamalada (tamale making party) is a traditional Mexican party that brings family and friends together to assemble tamales.

The Witte is hosting a Tamalada on Dec. 10 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Here you can learn about the art of making tamales from Comadre Gloria Solis. By paying for admission ($15 for members; $25 for non-members), you will get the opportunity  to make a half-dozen bean tamales to eat on the spot or take home. If that option is too pricy, then head on over to The Pearl on Dec. 3 from noon to 6 p.m. to indulge in that corn husk covered goodness. Admission into the event is free and features both traditional and creative tamales from over forty vendors. There will also be live Tejano music.

If you really enjoy the Pearl, you can stop by a second time to hit up the Holiday Gift Market. You can a pick up unique gifts for your loved ones. Vendors will be setting up tents on Pearl Parkway in front of Cured to sell handmade gifts such as artisan chocolates, soaps and more. If you need a gift for your special someone, be sure to stop by Dec. 3, 10 and 17 from 3 to 7 p.m.

If you don’t mind taking a trip outside of San Antonio, there are a couple of small cities where Christmas cheer abounds.

The Germanic city of New Braunfels is home to Santa’s Ranch, a drive through Christmas Light Park. This park boasts over 1 million lights and the best part about it is you can enjoy the view from the comfort of your own car.

Speaking of comfort, make sure to head over to Comfort, TX for a taste of Christmas in Comfort. The dates for this event have passed, but it is annual, so make sure to mark your calendars for next year.

Ever celebrated Christmas in a cave? Well, you can this year at Christmas at the Caverns. The folks at Natural Bridge Caverns have turned the park into a Christmas Wonderland. Help Santa find his reindeer in The AMAZEn’ reindeer roundup, take a ride on the Christmas hayride or fly above their mini Christmas Village on the Flying Elf Ziplines. On Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10 and Dec. 16 through 23, you can enjoy listening to your favorite Christmas carols 180 feet underground on the 80 minute Caroling in the Caverns tour.

Of course, Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated this time of year, so take some time out to get cultured while you get into the spirit. On Dec. 13, from noon to 4 p.m., head out to the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures to enjoy Winter Celebrations Around the World. At this informative kid friendly event, you will learn all about major winter holidays from international students participating in the AYUSA Global Exchange Program. The event is both informational and charitable. The San Antonio Food Bank will be there collecting non-perishable food items to help out families in need during the holidays. There will also be a traditional Pastorela play performed by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, and you can view suites from the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio’s rendition of The Nutcracker.

And of course, what’s Christmas without the Nutcracker? The San Antonio Ballet will perform the Christmas classic multiple times on Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and Dec. 2. The performance is at the H-E-B Performance Hall at the Tobin Center. A different special guest will be performing at each performance and details can be found on the Tobin Center website.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice; any holiday you celebrate, may your holidays be merry and bright.

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