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10 Texas Holiday Traditions

December 1, 2023 Texas

Texans love their traditions from watching high school football on Friday nights to stopping at Buc-ee’s on Lone Star State Road trips to visiting the annual state fair with iconic “Big Tex” and fried Oreos!

The winter months are no exception as Texas has many Christmas and holiday traditions celebrated across the vast state. Here are 10 Texas holiday traditions to check out:

  • Barbecue Smoked Turkey: Okay, so barbecue in Texas is a tradition year-round that knows no time off, but for many in the state, firing up the barbecue on Christmas Day is a tradition.  A holiday favorite is smoked turkey. One Texas company, Greenberg Smoked Turkeys in Tyler, ships some 50,000 smoked turkeys nationwide each year.

    Fun fact: The Texas Historical Commission says that “The earliest Texans to roast meat were likely the Caddo, who cooked venison and other game over an open fire thousands of years ago. In the 1600s, Spanish shepherds reportedly spit-roasted lamb and goat al pastor (“shepherd style”) on the plains of South Texas.”
  • Barbed Wire Wreaths: Barb wire has a colorful history in Texas with Texas Monthly saying that “today barbed wire seems a natural part of the Texas landscape, but to our great-great-grandparents it was anathema. Once called the devil’s hatband, it brought controversy, bloodshed, and ultimately, civilization. Neither bulky nor flimsy, barbed wire was cheaper than wood and easier to erect, and it could withstand the extremes of Texas weather. Most importantly, it would allow ranchers to selectively breed their stock by fencing out strays.”

    Texans make and hang wreaths out of barbed wire at Christmas time, a real cowboy alternative to the fresh green wreaths found in other parts of the country. The best part of these wreaths is that they are “drought tolerant” and can be used year after year.
  • Christmas Pyramids: No, Christmas pyramids are not something you need to go to Egypt to find but a Texas tradition influenced by the state’s German heritage. Hill Country’s Fredericksburg features a 26-foot carousel-like structure called a Weihnachtspyramide or Christmas pyramid.

    Explains Visit Fredericksburg: “These wooden pyramids are a traditional German decoration dating back to the 16th century. It is an art form that many believe evolved into our current custom of a Christmas tree. Christmas pyramids have their roots in the German Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), a silver ore mining region in the eastern part of Germany. When the mines began to close, the manufacture of wooden toys became a newfound source of income. Woodworkers would use their moving artwork to capture the attention of children and teach them Bible stories. The artisans would create figurines depicting each part of a story and arrange them in order on the tiers of the pyramid.”

  • Cowboy Santa: Here comes Santa Claus. Here comes Santa Claus. Riding a horse and wearing a cowboy hat? Yep!

    Says Texas Co-op Power magazine: “Images and decorations of Santa Claus with a cowboy hat and cowboy boots can be seen throughout the state. And of course, Cowboy Santa uses longhorns instead of reindeer to pull his sleigh.”
  • Decorated Trucks: It’s no secret that Texans love their trucks and across the state, you can see them decorated for the holidays with everything from Christmas lights, wreaths, antlers, and more! Towns across Texas even hold holiday truck parades.

    Says Wide Open Country: “One thing you might not have heard of is the mostly small-town custom of pickup parades. Now, you probably know about the world-record-breaking pickup parade in Arlington. That's not what this is. Christmas pickup parades are much shorter and far more interesting. Nothing looks quite like the holiday season until you've seen a truck decked out with Christmas decorations.”
  • Drive-Thru Christmas Lights Display: Texans certainly do a lot of driving and during the holidays they can jump in their favorite truck and enjoy spectacular drive-thru Christmas lights displays from Austin to Weatherford. Some of these Christmas lights drive-thru displays are a tradition that dates back more than 50 years and feature millions of lights. The great thing about all these light show experiences is that you do not have to leave the comfort of your own car to capture some of the Christmas spirit.
  • Fruitcake: The fruitcake may have its origins dating back to ancient Rome, but this holiday staple was perfected in Texas with Corsicana’s Collin Street Bakery selling more than 3 million pounds of fruitcake each year!

    The Texas Standard says, “It’s the holiday season, and for some of us that means buying, selling, or eating fruitcake. In the 1940s, a German immigrant and a Texas businessman gave up baking bread for baking fruitcakes. If you think that’s nuts, you should try it.”

    Nuts indeed! The famous Collin Street Bakery fruitcake is about 30 percent pecans, and the bakery uses about 20,000 pounds of pecans during the holiday season!
  • Pecan Pie: Believe it or not, even after all those fruitcakes are shipped around the world, there are plenty of delicious Texas pecans left over to make a favorite holiday dessert: Pecan pie.

    Says the Texas Co-op Power magazine: “The state is the largest producer of native pecans in the world. So of course, pecan pie is a must-have dessert at the Christmas table.”

    While pumpkin pie may rule the holidays in other states, Texans have been enjoying pecan pie at the holiday dessert table since the 1920s, and there are plenty of places across the state ready to serve up a homemade slice or two.
  • Poinsettias: A tradition that dates back to the 17th century in Mexico, the displaying of poinsettias at Christmas time was first introduced across the border in the early 19th century by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett – and thus the plant name today! Texans love to give these colorful red plants as gifts to friends and family where they are displayed in yards and homes across the state. Texas A&M says the poinsettias are a major floricultural crop in the state, valued at approximately $9 million with over 700 producers statewide.
  • Tamales:  Another tradition influenced by Mexico, is the holiday tradition of serving and enjoying tamales during the Christmas season. This Tex-Mex tradition has been around for a long time with Texas Highways exploring an iconic photograph from 1943 of a San Antonio woman stocking up on corn husks for the holidays. “No West Side housewife would be caught Christmas week without a batch of tamales,” she told the local paper. To this day, Texan families gather each holiday season to make tamales together and then share them on Christmas Eve.

    Says NPR: “Forget the fruitcake and nix the nog. In Texas, it wouldn't be Christmas without tamales. Rhett Rushing, a folklorist at San Antonio's Institute of Texan Cultures, said tamales have been traditional Christmas Eve fare for centuries because they're portable, easy to store, and inexpensive to make for large gatherings.”

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