3 small-town Christmas traditions from Kansas and Missouri to celebrate this year
Normally we associate road trips with summertime, but sometimes it’s worth braving the cold if it means experiencing extra holiday cheer. With a pandemic-themed Christmas season potentially disturbing plans to gather with friends and family, it might be good to get away and experience a different sort of holly-jolliness. Here are three towns in Kansas and Missouri that take Christmas to the next level.
3 hours south via I-49
“Noel” is actually pronounced like it rhymes with mole, but during the holidays, the town honors its festive name with a Christmas ritual. Every year, the Noel post office uses decorative postmarks, a tradition that dates back to the 1930s.
“We get letters from all across the country and even from France and Germany,” says Lynn Howerton, current post officer in charge. “We get a few cards from China and Taiwan. We get them basically from all over the world.”
Starting the day after Thanksgiving and continuing through Christmas Eve, volunteers work to stamp these unique postmarks that feature wreaths, Christmas trees and their staple “Christmas Town USA” mantra.
3 hours west via I-70
Lindsborg, a Swedish-immigrant community in the middle of Kansas, is also known as “Little Sweden USA.” The town has many old-fashioned traditions that reflect Swedish culture, and holiday shopping really comes alive in the quaint and colorful downtown.
“I think what makes it fun is the mom-and-pop businesses,” says Holly Lofton, director of the Lindsborg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They do a lot of fun decorative stuff in their windows.”
Other cheerful events include the Snowflake parade—an event inclusive of every Lindsborg resident, including goats.
ST. CHARLES, MISSOURI
4 hours east via I-70
The St. Louis suburb of St. Charles celebrates Christmas in three different ways. First is an old-fashioned Victorian celebration that commemorates the nineteenth century with Charles Dickens-esque characters and carolers in top hats. “It goes well with Main Street because it looks like you’re walking through a postcard,” says Ryan Cooper, festival director of St. Charles.
Next, the city highlights the whimsical and magical side of the holiday with characters like Jack Frost and the sugar plum fairy, further contributing to the childlike wonder.
Finally, history is combined with tradition to showcase Christmases from around the world. “There are at least a dozen international Santas and characters, providing a trip around the world without needing a passport,” says Cooper. “We’re very big on edutainment—teaching people things while having fun.”
The Christmas traditions festival also includes musical groups that sing Christmas carols from different eras and old-fashioned chestnut roasters.
Did You Know?
St. Charles’s international holiday celebration also includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s traditions from around the world.