As I Like It!

Christmas in a Railroad Town



DECEMBER 19, 2016



“I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

 …Henry Wadsworth Longfellow




Opelika, like many small towns across the South, celebrates the Christmas season as a civic event. There is the mandatory Christmas parade, a tradition with its roots in the depression, when local merchants sought ways to keep the gift buying from going to nearby larger cities. Today, most of the downtown merchants have long gone out of business, giving way to the big box retailers and regional malls, but, the tradition hangs on—much to the delight of a new generation of kids. Opelika has invested in modernization of the central business district, converting our downtown to a restaurant and entertainment venue.parade

For the whole month of December, we celebrate CHRISTMAS IN A RAILROAD TOWN, honoring Opelika’s heyday as the crossroads of two major rail lines. There are wine tastings, street parties, and musical presentations. The local churches contribute with Christmas pageants and choral programs, and another annual event is a nighttime walk through Opelika’s residential historical district, billed as A Victorian Village Tour.


The convergence of the rail lines contributed to Opelika’s rise as a textile mill center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The prosperity produced by the mills allowed many Opelikians to build large, beautiful, Victorian homes, and many have been lovingly restored. Each Christmas, these homes are decorated for two evenings, with historically correct Victorian mannequins set on well-lit lawns and front porches.


Clista and I lived in the home shown above before moving out of the historic district, and we still love taking the tour. It has become one of our Christmas traditions.

Categories: As I Like It!

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3 replies »

  1. Tom, What a great article! I enjoyed it very much Your town did what was the thing to do to save Christmas. Will

  2. Thanks for the inspiring comments about Christmas in a Railroad Town, with emphasis on the Porches Tour and some history of what brought such events about. I was on the board of MainStreet Opelika when we started Christmas in a Railroad Town. The subsequent Depot Restoration and Community Development have all been due to a lot of people working to get downtown where it is now. It is truly a delight to see the restaurant crowd and people taking part in the shopping and growing entertainment attractions. What is especially endearing abut the Porches, outside of the charm of the mannequins on the porches of the houses, is the Christmas feeling… just enjoyment of the season.. music, people walking about and greeting each other,music, some of it impromptu, with no pressure or impetus to feel the need to buy something. The residents of 8th and 9th Streets deserve our appreciation for all the work involved for the few days we enjoy it.

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