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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Southern Holidays Can Be Weird

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

We honor a Christmas pickle and a doll with an ice cream cone for a hat. Among others!

World Largest Christmas Pickle
World Largest Christmas Pickle

World's Largest Christmas Pickle

Outside the Christmas Winter Wonderland in Fort Smith, Ark., lies a 14-foot-tall sculpture as homage to a German-American holiday event. The World's Largest Christmas Pickle is based on the tradition of hiding a pickle ornament in a Christmas tree with the lucky finder receiving a reward or good fortune.

It's not entirely known where this tradition originated but one thought is it came from an incident during the Civil War. A German-American soldier was taken prisoner and on Christmas Eve he asked his guard for food and was given a pickle. Was rude at the time but fun now.

houmas house mr. bingle
Mr. Bingle of Houmas House

Jingle, Jangle, Jingle

Growing up in New Orleans, we knew what those three words meant. The tune was followed by "Here comes Mr. Bingle." The doll was a marketing effort by the department store Maison Blanche and the cute fella with an ice cream cone for a hat and wings took off like Santa Claus. Pretty soon households throughout New Orleans had Mr. Bingle dolls and we sang the tune every holiday season.

Houmas House Estate and Gardens upriver from New Orleans has an original Mr. Bingle who usually spends time at the Great River Road Museum. During the holidays, Mr. Bingle moves to the mansion so visitors may say hello to this New Orleans treasure when touring the home.

Mr. Bingle turns 75 this year! Want to learn more about this long-standing New Orleans holiday tradition? Click here.

Hendersonville Peppermint Bear Cubs
Hendersonville Peppermint Bear Cubs. Credit: Todd Bush

Find Peppermint Bear Cubs!

Hendersonville, N.C., sends folks out to find Peppermint Bear's lost cubs who are hiding all over downtown. This fun family-friendly scavenger hunt runs through Dec. 23. New this year are frosty treats from Celtic Creamery and sweetFrog Premium Frozen Yogurt, both part of the Hendersonville Ice Cream Trail. I would definitely start there.

And stick around for New Year's. Hendersonville is considered North Carolina's Apple Capital so it's only natural that they raise a giant apple above the plaza of the Historic Courthouse on New Year's Eve. The free event includes New Year's Eve swag, a deejay dance party, games and hot cocoa leading to the "apple rise countdown" at 7 p.m.

Gaylord National Resort gingerbread village
Gaylord National Resort’s “Once Upon a Time Gingerbread Village.” Credit: Gaylord National Resort

Edible Homes

What's Christmas without a gingerbread house? How about enormous ones?

The culinary team at Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa in Branson, Mo., spent 175 hours creating an edible mini Chateau and a surrounding village. We're talking a vanilla wafer-tiled roof, pretzel balconies and jelly bean stonework with 300 pounds of powdered sugar and 120 pounds of egg whites for the cement!

Over at the Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in Point Clear, Ala., the pastry team created a replica of the resort's main iconic building with a few other spots from 2,500 gingerbread bricks, 150 pounds of icing, 1,000 gumdrops, 2,200 chocolate cookie shingles and more.

The Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., eight resort culinarians created a 320-square-foot gingerbread house display with 40 pounds of Rice Krispies, 50 pounds of marshmallows and 100 pounds of royal icing, among many other delectable ingredients. They claim the entire piece contains 300,000 calories!

And Yes, a Recipe...

We can't discuss the holidays without a Southern recipe. Here's one for pralines from the "Delightfully Southern Holidays" by Lucy M. Clark. It comes to us from the tourism folks at Columbus, Ga.



2 cups of sugar

1/2 cup of milk

1/2 cup of Karo Syrup

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Directions: Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan and cook to the soft-ball stage on the candy thermometer. Stir in the remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until cool. Drop by spoonful on waxed paper. Pralines set up quickly...which is a good thing because you're going to want to have a nibble as soon as possible.

Weird, Wacky & Wild South is written by Cheré Dastugue Coen who loves everything odd. And the South has its share. She grew up with Mr. Bingle and every year she brings out her two.

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