Kentucky Traditions: Southern Lights

Usually during the Kentucky wintertime, with its unpredictable weather, I spend a lot of time holed up in my house. I don't have kids, so there isn't a lot of incentive to head to parades or to see Santa. There is, however, one holiday tradition that I do brave the cold for: Southern Lights at the Kentucky Horse Park. 

Photo by whenlostin on Flickr

This marks the 20th year of Southern Lights, which is a wonderland of oversized lighted holiday decorations that run through the Kentucky Horse Park. You get to stay in your car and "ooh" and "aah" at the over 1 million lights while running the heat at full blast. My favorite display every year is the "12 Days of Christmas" which is illustrated through twinkle lights. There are also animated displays, which are fun.

Photo by osubeav on Flickr

I don't stay in the car for long though. I always pop out at the end where they have pony and camel rides (for the youngin's), craft vendors, refreshments, and other fun things. But the real reason I get out in the cold? The petting zoo.

I mean really, who doesn't want to feed the goats?!

I'm not quite sure why my husband and I love the petting zoo so much. It's just a fun thing to do, and you can get your hand tickled by animal lips as they eat feed. They're just so darn cute. 

The lights are on each night (from 5:30-10:00 pm) through December 31, and the indoor attractions are be open each night, with the exception of November 28 and December 24 through December 31.

Southern Lights is a great family event and is budget-friendly since you pay per car versus per-person.
  • Personal Vehicle (Sunday - Thursday) $15.00
  • Personal Vehicle (Friday and Saturday) $20.00
  • Extended Van  $30.00
So, if you head out to Southern Lights, make sure to look for me at the petting zoo. I'll most likely be with the goats. 

Holiday Traditions: Reality Check

Every year, I dream up these elaborate plans for beautifully executed Christmas traditions to do with my family. My daughters are 3 and 6, the perfect age to be completely swept up in the magic of the season.

I found some really great ones for this year. I'll link them up for you in case you're interested.

  • All Aboard The Minivan Express! A fun little after bedtime treat for the kids, involving really cute printable golden tickets to grab a seat on a trip around town to see the Christmas lights. My girls would love this little surprise! A trip to Southern Lights would work well for this, as well as a quick drive past Fire Station #20 on Harrodsburg Rd. (You've all seen that, right? It's one of my most favorite holiday displays. Check out this video!)
  • Letters to Santa party! This would be so perfect for my kindergartener, who's just learning to sound words out and is always so excited that she can write things on her own now. She and a few of her buddies would have a blast with this.
  • Put together a Christmas Eve Surprise Box that the kids get to open at sunset on Christmas Eve. Include things like Christmas pajamas, a holiday movie, hot chocolate, a Christmas book, anything to make the night special.

Like I said: Big plans. Every year. All the excitement.

And then suddenly Christmas is a week away and I've done nothing! I haven't even put anything, ANYTHING, in the advent calendar on the wall!! (And the beauty of it is that for as long as we've had the advent calendar, I have never remembered to do anything with it, so the girls don't even realize they're missing out.)

This has happened for three years in a row now, and I'm always so disappointed in myself for getting swept up in boring day-to-day stuff and forgetting to do all these things I'd looked forward to. 

And today, I realized traditions don't have to be perfectly organized events doused in hot chocolate and tied together with sparkly ribbons. I realized that we already had traditions that I didn't even consider to be "real" traditions.

We put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving every year. I pull out my vinyl albums of Christmas music and put them in the record player and blast them throughout the house. Lauren loves helping me bring all the decorations out of storage, and the girls help put the ornaments on the tree. to decorate their own trees in their rooms. I did make hot chocolate. (This amaaaazing hot chocolate. Make it, make it, make it.) And almost every night this month we've watched a holiday-themed show or movie, unless UK basketball was on, obviously. And on Christmas Eve, just like we've done the last 3 years, the girls will wear matching Christmas pajamas...the kind with footies. 

The traditions may not be elaborate, but they're ours. I still want to do some of the bigger things that require more planning (and yes, advent calendars seem like a lot of planning to me), but for now, I know that Lauren already looks forward to these little things every year, and Ella is starting to get into them too. It's that time of year when every little thing seems magical, especially when kids are involved. When I see the girls decorating the trees in their rooms, or watch them eat the slice-and-bake Christmas cookies from the store (because I never remember to get the cookie decorating supplies to do the "real" homemade Christmas cookies), they are thrilled to pieces. And suddenly, my little traditions seem like enough.