Helena rings in Christmas with tree lighting, parade

By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

HELENA — Each year, holiday celebrations bring together multitudes of residents to celebrate the holiday season and ring in the new year. And despite the current pandemic, this year was no different as Helena residents safely gathered to enjoy the holiday festival, the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the Christmas parade.

The celebrations kicked off on Friday night, Dec. 4, as the city held its holiday festival and Christmas tree lighting in Old Town Helena.

The holiday festival was sponsored by the Helena Business Association and gave residents an opportunity to not only get some of their Christmas shopping done, but to connect residents with local vendors.

Guests at the festival were treated to a live nativity scene put on by Gospel Light Baptist Church, musical performances from Old Towne music and a chance for kids to visit with Santa Claus himself.

During the festival, residents were able to gather at the caboose where the tree was lit amidst cheers and the familiar sounds of classic Christmas songs.

According to Helena City Councilman and Beautification Board Chairman Chris VanCleave, the tree lighting is very important for the holiday celebrations, and it is what he calls the city’s “Hallmark moment.”

“We all come together and drink apple cider and light the tree, and everybody sings. It really is the event that kicks off the season in Helena,” VanCleave said. “Traditions like this are important reminders of the strength of the community, which has been especially tested during this trying year.”

The following day, the streets of Helena were filled with endless lawn chairs down Highway 261 as residents came out in their warmest clothes ready to watch the excitement of the Christmas parade.

The parade began around 1 p.m. and saw a wide variety of businesses, organizations and individuals representing the city with their best performances, routines and colorfully-decorated floats.

This included incredible performances from Helena High School students, several dance and baton teams, the Helena Miracle League, Miss Alabama Tiara Pennington, many local churches, local city government officials, the police and fire departments, and to cap it off was Father Christmas himself, Santa Claus riding on one of the city’s fire trucks.

These festivities served as a way to provide some sense of normalcy during an otherwise tumultuous year. Though most people’s faces were covered during the events, there were full of joy underneath as the city celebrated the holiday season.

“I think that it is very important that we continue the traditions of Christmas,” VanCleave said. “Even though we are in the midst of a global pandemic, the Christmas spirit is alive and well.”