Planning and teamwork

Oklahomans work diligently well before the holidays to ensure festive activities and performances abound.

One product of such teamwork is The Christmas Show, a Broadway-style production in Oklahoma City.

“A year in advance, our music director and show director begin planning a new production,” says Susan Webb with the OKC Philharmonic. “It takes people with many skill sets, and the high quality work is performed by local, high-caliber talent. Following the performance, I love to bake and slow down a bit.”

Jo Lynne Jones, executive director of the Oklahoma City Ballet, concurs that it’s a team effort to get holiday performances off the ground.

 “OKC Ballet’s artist director choreographed our version of The Nutcracker,” she says. “There is also a production team, plus musicians, costumers, box office support, marketing and all the talented children involved. ‘The Waltz of the Snowflakes’ is magical for me. This year we are building a Christmas tree made of pointe shoes. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”

The entire OKC Paseo District also gets into the spirit. 

“[We trim] the light poles with garlands; shop owners decorate their store fronts; and we have nine reindeer decorated by artists that families can look for throughout the district,” says Amanda Bleakley, president of the Paseo Arts Association. “We have a warm clothes drive for the Homeless Alliance through December with an Amazon wish list set up. Visit thepaseo.org/support. Simple things like gloves and hats save lives during winter.”

Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma’s production of A Christmas Carol has become one of OKC’s favorite traditions.

“There’s a sense of community about the production; Dickens’ story is important to share, and often we find this marks the first theatrical experience for children,” says Michael Bratcher-Magallanez, Lyric’s audience services and public relations manager. “Audiences are invited to contribute to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. The past eight years, patrons donated over $150,000. The cast, crew and staff have become a family, which makes this time of year special.”

Harmony House Cafe and Bakery in Muskogee recently won the Oklahoma’s Best Cookie award from Southern Living magazine. Photo courtesy Harmony House Cafe and Bakery

On the eastern side of the state, Muskogee’s Harmony House Café and Bakery, located in a 100-year-old house (with lunch served daily), has received Southern Living magazine’s award for Oklahoma’s Best Cookie.

“We decorate during the holidays, which are fun for us,” owner Mandy Scott says. “We have great bakers that get to show off their artistic skills. A few special holiday items we offer are cranberry spice tea, decorated gingerbread cookies, and pumpkin and banana nut bread to go with our year-round goodies, like our clover dinner rolls.”

Back in Oklahoma County, Bob Benham, owner of Balliet’s in Nichols Hills, keeps the clothing store festive “by having holiday decorations up before Thanksgiving. Vendors do trunk shows. We serve Christmas cookies and cider, and play Christmas music. More men than usual shop during the holidays.”

The weather outside is …

… cold with a good chance of snow. Although Oklahoma weather is just about as fickle as it comes, KJRH Channel 2 chief meteorologist Mike Collier predicts that “we will have a colder Christmas time. We have about 9 inches of snow per season and we’ll get that this year.” 

So get out your snow gear and prepare for some precipitation. But when can we expect it? 

“We’ll see a lot of snow up front in December and early January, and begin to wane as we go into February,” says Collier.

Perhaps it will be a white Christmas after all.

Holiday movies at home

Home Alone

Miracle on 34th Street

It’s a Wonderful Life

A Christmas Story

Elf

National Lampoon’s
Christmas Vacation

White Christmas

The Santa Clause

The Polar Express

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

These movies can be found on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Boomerang, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, NetFlix, YouTube and other streaming platforms.

All Souls Unitarian Church offers a variety of holiday-themed events during the season. Photo by Jim Gillispie courtesy All Souls Unitarian Church

Faith-based Giving

Numerous places of worship around the state get into the giving spirit with entertainment and philanthropic efforts that you can join.

Rabbi Michael Weinstein says Tulsa’s Temple Israel “has a relationship with Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. During Jewish High Holy Days, Temple Israel raised over $57,000 for the Food Bank, along with 1,500 pounds of food.”

He adds that the temple has ongoing non-perishable food available. On Dec. 20, the congregation presents the Jammin’ with Judah musical for its Hanukkah Shabbat service. Following is dinner with traditional festive foods, such as potato latkes with sour cream and apple sauce. On Dec. 22 is its ShalomFest First Night of Hanukkah celebration. On Christmas Eve, the temple serves dinner at Tulsa’s Day Center.

OKC’s Metropolitan Bible Church has served as a central drop-off point for Operation Christmas Child for five years, senior pastor John Frawley says.

“We load several semi-trailers for distribution around the world,” he says. “Our tradition of telling the Christmas story through song is Dec. 8 at our Christmas Sampler. We also emphasize key biblical concepts of hope in our Advent series, each Sunday from Dec. 1 to Dec. 22.”

Jon Mays, director of local partnerships for Life Church, says the group’s statewide locations have partnered with Tulsa Boys’ Home, OKC Dream Center and City Care to provide food, coats and gifts to those in need.

The Rev. Anthony Scott says Tulsa’s First Baptist Church North gives annual college scholarships to its students, and provides lunch, a program and gifts for Jordan Plaza, a senior housing venue.

At OKC’s St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral, festivities begin with Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration on Dec. 12, including a mariachi serenade, mass and dinner, secretary Sonia Estrada says.

“Nightly from Dec. 16 to Dec. 24, we have the Posadas celebrating the Christmas story, including food, music and piñatas,” she says.

Tulsa’s All Souls Unitarian Church, according to communications manager Bonita James, “kicks off the season Dec. 2 with tree trimming and hanging of the greens, canned goods collected for the food pantry, and dinner. Dec. 11 is a holiday memorial chapel, honoring loved ones who have passed. Our Dec. 15 holiday concert features all our choirs.”

The Salvation Army is always looking for volunteers … but especially during the holiday season.
Photo courtesy the Salvation Army

A Helping Hand

Charitable organizations need your help and efforts during the holidays.

The Rev. Steve Whitaker, CEO of Tulsa’s John 3:16 Mission, says the homeless community’s needs keep increasing.

“Now is the time to make an impact,” he says. “Imagine being under a bridge on Christmas Eve, shivering and hungry. Support the charitable organization of your choice. Every day, we’re serving nearly 600 meals and providing overnight shelter for over 100 people. The mission has an abundance of volunteer opportunities.”

Visit john316mission.org or call 918-587-1186 for information on how to help.

The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma command has an easy way to get involved.

“Take an angel off our Angel Trees at Penn Square Mall, Quail Springs Mall and Sooner Mall and fulfill the needs of the angel,” says Traci Jinkens, development coordinator.

For other volunteer opportunities, call Liz Banks at 405-246-1107 or email liz.banks@uss.salvationarmy.org.

Dan Straughan, executive director of OKC’s Homeless Alliance, says donors can adopt families during the season.

“We also do a party for our day shelter guests, supported by donations of winter hats, gloves, hand warmers, blankets and hygiene items,” he says. “I’d suggest folks check with their local United Way, their faith home, or call 2-1-1 to find out what’s going on in your community. Shelters provide Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for clients. OKC has the annual Red Andrews Dinner. Volunteers are needed for all of them.”

Town Celebrations

Claremore West Bend Winterland

Dec. 2-31 Expo Center

The West Bend Winterland offers a 65-foot Christmas tree, ice skating and visits from Santa.

visitclaremore.org/240/west-bend-winterland

Durant Christmas Parade

Dec. 3 Downtown

Bundle up and visit Main Street Durant. The theme of this year’s parade is “Who’s Holiday: How Durant Stole Christmas.”

durantchamber.org/events

Cherokee Nation’s
Christmas on the Square

Dec. 13 Cherokee National History Museum, Tahlequah

Explore the museum, enjoy free cookies and hot chocolate, take photos with Santa and listen to carols.

visitcherokeenation.com

Guthrie’s Territorial Christmas

Through Dec. 14 Downtown

Territorial Christmas includes tours of Guthrie’s most distinctive homes and buildings, plus themed walks around Guthrie’s main street.

guthriesterritorialchristmas.com

Chickasaw Nation’s Holiday Events

Through Dec. 31 Ada, Sulphur, Ardmore,  Tishomingo and Oklahoma City

Themed movies nights, children’s events, light displays and an art market await.

chickasawcountry.com

Chickasha Festival of Light

Through Dec. 31 2400 S. Ninth St.

Explore 43 acres of lights or visit the ice skating rink.

chickashafestivaloflight.org

Elk City Christmas in the Park

Through Dec. 31 Ackley Park

Jump on the Mistletoe Express to enjoy millions of lights in Ackley Park. 

visitelkcity.com

What started as an intimate holiday celebration has blossomed into a 100+ people event at LaFortune Park. Photo courtesy G.T. Bynum

’Tis the season with the mayor

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum kicks off the holidays with “the LaFortune family Thanksgiving celebration, which started in the 1950s with 10 adults. Today, we usually have around 100 people from all over the country. It’s so many people that we use LaFortune Park, named after my great-grandfather. It is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with family.”