While Franklin has changed a lot in the last 20 years, and even more since the 1960s and 1970s, there are a number of traditions that have endured and have become for many families the events that get the season started. Some are community events, and some are activities in which individual families have participated through the generations. Here are the top five favorites according to both newcomers and those who grew up in the city according to an informal Facebook pole.
The Kiwanis Christmas Parade has become an annual tradition with close to 22,000 people viewing it from the sidelines. After being cancelled last year due to COVID-19, it return this year bigger and better than ever thanks to a new partnership with the Williamson County Fine Arts Department. The event included bands and floats and dancing.
2The NOEL Sign Going Up
Few know that the NOEL sign that sits on top of the White Building at five points beginning Thanksgiving week every year actually remains on the roof all year, and is only tipped up and lit for the holiday season. It has a long history, having come from the Noel Hotel in Nashville after it closed in 1972. Now it marks the beginning of the holiday season in Franklin and can be seen for miles.
3Riding Around Looking at Lights and Decorations
On the Hello Trolley or in private vehicles, touring around Franklin and Brentwood neighborhoods to view the lights and décor is a seasonal favorite. Trolley tours are available from December 4 through December 23 at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and at 5:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tours begin outside The Factory at Building 11 and run about an hour and a half. The cost is $25 per person. Tickets are going fast. Grab some hot chocolate and hop on!
4Tree Lighting Downtown
The annual Christmas tree lighting in downtown Franklin is for many the event that gets the holiday season started. This year, on Friday, December 3, Franklin lit the Christmas tree with school choirs, Grammy nominee Matthew West and Layla Tucker, Tanya Tucker’s daughter following in mama’s footsteps.
5Shopping in Downtown Franklin
“I loved it when I was a little girl when I went shopping with my Mama and all the downtown stores stayed open until 8:00 p.m. the week before Christmas,” said one respondent to an informal poll about favorite Christmas Franklin Christmas traditions on Facebook. Shopping small and local continues to be a favorite holiday activity for residents.
There are several well-loved traditions that are now gone, including the light display that George Jones used to put up on his Franklin home and visiting Earl’s Fruit Stand. Many miss the simplicity of the holiday season when they were children. But, respondents Linda M. and 96-year-old Ann R. say that what Christmas brings out in them is, “The feeling I get every year of how blessed I am to live here.”