6 Ways Christmas is the Best in Michigan

6 Ways Christmas is the Best in Michigan

For many of us, Christmastime is about bringing together family and friends, celebrating traditions, opening presents, finding out who was really on Santa’s naughty and nice list this past year, as well as enjoying the lights, cozy fires and fresh snowfall outside. Collectively as a state, we take this merry season to a whole other level. For many of us Michiganders, we grew up with several of our state’s great attractions and traditions during the holiday season. Here’s why Michigan does Christmas better:

We don’t just decorate Christmas trees, we pick out fresh trees each year.

Michigan ranks third nationally in trees harvested for the season at over three million trees, of which two million are shipped nationwide and one million are hauled home by Michiganders. There are over 800 Christmas tree farms in the state, grown on 54,000 acres, in every single one of Michigan’s 83 counties, so there is sure to be one in your backyard. Christmas tree farms are also better for the environment, and you can pick from an abundant offering of pines, firs and spruces– the most variety of types any state has to offer.

We had to name a town after Christmas, where Santa is larger-than-life!

The town of Christmas was established in the 1930s by a Yooper who built a roadside factory to manufacture holiday gifts. While the actual factory and gift production were short-lived, the name stuck with the town, as well as a 35-foot-tall Santa Claus! To make your holiday cards legit, you can stop by the town’s post office and have your postage marked from Christmas. It may be a hike from the rest of the world, but this little town can bring a bout of holiday cheer!

We are home to the world’s largest Christmas store, bar none.

Frankenmuth, Michigan, is home to the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s, founded by Wally Bronner in 1945. The store is 7.35 acres in size, or roughly about 1.5 football fields, and contains an inventory of over 50,000 trims and gifts. Open 361 days a year, Bronner’s sells over 500,000 feet of garland, 150,000 postcards, and more than 500 miles of Christmas lights each year. We’re pretty certain that Bronner’s is Santa’s preferred wholesale distributor to his North Pole workshop, which is why he frequently stops by after Thanksgiving when the busy holiday season arrives!

We know how to serve up merry good ‘ol cheer, right from the tap.

Michigan’s reputation as a top craft beer state was solidified in 2014, ranking 5th nationally in terms of sales by the Brewer’s Association. With over 130 craft breweries producing over 580,000 barrels annually, there is no shortage of brews to satisfy the tastebuds, especially during the holidays. In fact, we raise you a glass to a challenge of trying the twelve Michigan beers of Christmas. These winter ales, porters and lagers abound with fruity notes and dashes of cloves and nutmeg, molasses, gingerbread… the ingredients are plentiful, and are sure to bring about merriment to your holiday season.

Why Christmas is Awesome in the Mitten - Awesome Mitten
A bottle of Frankenmuth Brewery’s Christmas Town Ale. Photo Courtesy of Alfred Lim.

We are a central hub for The Polar Express, and brought it to life on the big screen.

The train in the movie The Polar Express is based on the Pere Marquette 1225, a restored steam locomotive built in the 1940s located in Owosso, Michigan. The blueprint and sound effects from live recordings of the train in motion went into the film’s animation. You can take the train from Owosso to cities along the Great Lakes Central Railroad, all the way up to Cadillac, Michigan. Recently, the locomotive underwent a $1M renovation and is one of the few remaining operable steam engines of its size, having been replaced predominantly by more efficient diesel engines. There’s no coincidence that the train’s road number is the same date as Christmas, 12/25.

Why Christmas is Awesome in the Mitten - Awesome Mitten
The Pere Marquette a.k.a. The Polar Express chugging along the Great Lakes Central Railroad. Photo courtesy of J. Rayner.

As far as Christmas lights go, we’ve got everything covered, literally.

As the daylight hours are short approaching the holidays, light displays begin to pop up all over the Mitten state. Wayne County hosts the longest drive-through light display in the midwest, spanning four miles in Hines Park, during between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Entire storefronts along main thoroughfares across cities and towns are decked out in lights, such as in Rochester and downtown Detroit along Woodward Avenue. Campus Martius Park in Detroit is aglow with Christmas lights atop it’s 60-foot tree which are synchronized with the music playing at the ice rink. The Detroit Zoo is illuminated in millions of LED lights as part of their Wild Lights display each year. But alas, there is no place like home for the holidays, and Michigan residents take pride in decorating their homes and yards with themed lights– be sure to check out the neighborhoods in St. Clair Shores.

Cars pass under the holiday lights along the four-mile stretch at the Wayne County Lightfest. Photo courtesy of Dearborn Press and Guide.
Cars pass under the holiday lights along the four-mile stretch of the Wayne County Lightfest. Photo courtesy of Dearborn Press and Guide.

What are some of your favorite things about Christmas in Michigan?

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Hello Awesome Readers, my name is Alfred and I am a native to the metro Detroit area. Growing up my favorite Michigan memories and pastimes include the countless trips to The Henry Ford Museum, classic and race car shows, Tigers games in the old Tigers stadium, family trips to Mackinac Island and kayaking trips down the Huron River through Tree Town. In 2008, I graduated from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) with a Mechanical Engineering degree (like father, like son) and now work for the utility industry right here in Michigan. Building upon my roots, I never cease to explore and experience what our great state has to offer. I participate in road races year-round, and these have served as a passport to explore the state on foot, from Detroit to Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids to Charlevoix and trails up north. Additionally, I am an avid cyclist and enjoy Critical Mass and Slow Roll rides in Detroit. When not busy racking up endorphins, I enjoy exploring new organizations, businesses and events in Ann Arbor, home of my alma mater and Detroit, the city of tomorrow! Writing about my Awesome Mitten experiences, reading about Michigan history (I am a member of the Washtenaw Historical Society), and taking photographs of nature and urban oases occupy my free time.