Best Mississippi Gulf Coast Christmas Light Displays

A great memorable and photographic opportunity with your family is looking at Christmas lights.  Going to look at Christmas lights displays and neighborhoods is a favorite memory of my childhood.  On clear nights, we would load up in the car and drive around enjoying the lights. Some weekends we would watch Christmas on the Water or the King’s Christmas Display.  The Gulf Coast has a great selection to enjoy each season.

I have compiled a list of events along the Coast to enjoy during the Christmas holidays. Some are one night events and others run from after Thanksgiving to the New Year.  Some are free and some cost entry. However, they are all merry and bright! 

Best Gulf Coast Christmas Light Displays
A nice view of lights at Bellingrath Gardens.

Harbor Lights Festival

Gulfport, MS

Harbor Lights began in Jones Park in 2015 and features over 1 million lights!  They charge a general entry fee for $10, children (over 5) at $5 each, and younger children free.  They also have pictures with Santa included if you bring your own camera. There are carnival rides as well that are charged separately.  

It begins nightly from November 29-December 31 from 5:30-9:30 P.M. (Days and times are weather permitting.) 

Note:  The Harbor Lights Festival was even featured in a Hallmark Movie!  

King’s Christmas Display 

Biloxi, MS

Last year the King’s brought back their beloved Christmas display.  It is free and is a collaboration of the King family and their neighbors on Three Rivers Road.  It will begin again December 14-29, 2019. Santa will visit the 14th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd.  

The previous display, began with a Nativity scene in 1956 and ended in 1994.  For all my friends that grew up in the 80s and 90s on the Gulf Coast, this is a chance to relive your childhood! 

MGCCC Festival of Lights 

Perkinston, MS 

This event is a best kept secret on the Gulf Coast. The Perkinston Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College hosts a lights display and Christmas Festival one night every December.  This year it was on the 8th, but usually is on a Friday night. They have various activities sponsored by campus and community groups. College, school, and church groups sell a variety of drinks and food during the event.  There are kids activities such as a petting zoo and train ride.  

Enjoy performances by the band, ensembles, and choirs of MGCCC.  Santa is always in attendance as well as the beautiful decorations on campus.  Check the MGCCC community calendar for times of future events.  

Christmas Light Displays Gulf Coast
Enjoy the lights and cheer!

Bellingrath Gardens and Home

Magic Christmas in Lights

Theodore, AL

With the exception of German Christmas Markets overseas, the Magic Christmas in Lights at Bellingrath Gardens is the most impressive lights display I have ever seen.  It is open nightly from November 29- December 31st. Entry fees range from 8 dollars for children to 16 for adults to look at the lights only. There is also the historic home on the property.  To visit it at the same time is an additional fee.

Allow plenty of time to travel to Theodore, Alabama and to view the light display.  The entire property is over 65 acres with 15 scenes. Prepare for crowds, and to eat ahead because refreshment purchasing is limited with long lines.  The Bellingrath home has a special coast connection. It is the home of some of the antiques from the City of Biloxi House of Treasures that was destroyed during Hurricane Camille in 1936.  The house of treasures was in the historic Baldwin-Wood Home.  

Best Christmas Light Displays Gulf Coast
A nautical theme can be seen in a lot of Christmas light displays on the Gulf Coast.

Christmas on the Water

Biloxi, MS 

Is another traditional annual event held in Biloxi.  It now corresponds with the Christmas in the City craft market as well. The boat parade is held the first Saturday every December.  It began in 1986 and celebrates our nautical roots. Viewers can enjoy boats decked out in Christmas decor. Normal viewing is between the Biloxi Harbor to the Biloxi Lighthouse.  Best of all, it is free!

I enjoy finding random sweatshirts from the event in thrift stores around to wear during the holidays.  

Christmas on the Bayou

Gulfport, MS 

This year’s Christmas on the Bayou is December 14th.  It is held in Bayou Bernard in Gulfport. You can expect the boats AND the beautiful waterfront homes to be decorated as well.  It is also free to attend.  

Deck Your Calendar

This is just a small sampling of events and displays I am familiar with on the Gulf Coast.  There are other amazing holiday festivals like the on held yearly at Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and beautiful homes decorated along the beach.  Take a look at Gulf Live, Coastal Mississippi, or the Sun Herald for other event ideas.  

Remember to charge your camera before heading out! 

Best Mississippi Gulf Coast Christmas Light Displays
Pin Me!

What is your favorite Christmas light display? 

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

Sweet Potato Versus Pumpkin: The Great Southern Debate

I knew it was a thing to have pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.  But growing up, we did not in our household. My family always had sweet potato pie as Thanksgiving dessert.  Due to popular culture in film and television shows I honestly thought that pumpkin pie was just a Yankee thing.  

Then the advent of the pumpkin spice lattes happened.  So now pumpkin is the big thing everywhere it seems. So with Thanksgiving less than a week away, let’s have a chat about these two holiday favorites. 

Sweet Potato vs Pumpkin
Sweet Potato Pie and Pumpkin all share that beautiful orange color.

Sweet Potato It’s a Southern Things

There are few reasons people believe that sweet potato is such a popular Thanksgiving food in the southeast.  It can be found on tables from Louisiana to Georgia. For one thing, it is grown easily and cheaply. Another explanation is that African slaves were able to adapt the recipes for the yams of their home continent with the sweet potato.  

Some families have pie or casserole recipes that have been handed down for generations.  Often these recipes are simple with similar ingredients with pumpkin pie. This quote from chef Gregory Cole in this food article

“If you give someone a sweet potato pie or bring one to someone’s house, that’s love.”

Sweet Potato versus Pumpkin
Sweet Potato is wonderful baked, sweet, and even fried!

Is There REALLY a Difference?

Some argue that there is little or no difference between the taste of pumpkin and sweet potato.  However, there are some big differences if you look at them before they are mushed to be cooked. In the squash family pumpkin certainly looks more attractive to the tuber family of the sweet potato.  

As of now, 42 different types of pumpkins exist, while only 5 sweet potato varieties exist. (This despite over 4,000 varieties of potatoes!)   There is even a white sweet potato I discovered at the Woolmarket Produce Stand a few months ago! Both host a range of health benefits.  

Sweet Potato Versus Pumpkin
This year, I ordered a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

How I Like Them:

I enjoy both in their own way.  I love sweet potato casseroles and pies.  However, I feel like my southerner citizenship may be revoked for ordering a pumpkin pie this year. ( It is from Le Bakery on Oak Street, and I know it will be delicious.)

Like any good former sorority girl and teacher, I enjoy a good pumpkin spice latte.  Now they are super sweet so I usually get them with soy and half the syrup. This year, Starbucks released a pumpkin cold brew with foam.  It is delicious and the D’Iberville Target sold out the first day it was released.

I also enjoy a good pumpkin beer.  There are some good pumpkin beers made because of the craft beer movement that is finally becoming a thing in the southeast.  However, pumpkin beer has been made in America since the 1770s!

Lazy Magnolia also has a Sweet Potato Stout if you are interested in something different.  Don’t forget to give sweet potato fries a try. I find them enjoyable whether they are at Southport Line or JFK Airport.  

Sweet Potato vs Pumpkin
Pumpkin Cheesecake

It’s All Delicious Anyway

Honestly, I like both sweet potato and pumpkin equally.  They both represent fall comfort food at its best! As long as there is a dollop of cool whip on top.  

What will be served at your Thanksgiving this year? Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie? 

Sweet Potato vs Pumpkin
Pin Me!

Disclosure:  Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission is you click through and make a purchase.

An Evening Stroll at Coalville Cemetery “The Rough and Ready”

The shorter days and deeper shadows create nicer weather for evening strolls in South Mississippi.  On these evenings, I enjoy walking without the threat of being baked and drenched from the South Mississippi heat.  I decided to plan a visit to Coalville Cemetery in order to experience the history and scenery in the cooler weather.  The perfect afternoon came at the end of September, and I took the short drive to one of the most picturesque cemeteries in Harrison County.  

Coalville Cemetery
The gates of Coalville Cememtery.

A Little History

Coalville Cemetery grew across the street from Coalville Methodist Church in a community known as Woolmarket.  Currently, Woolmarket is within the city limits of what is now north Biloxi.  Coalville happened to be the original name of the community because the first industry was burning pine trees for coal.  Settlers shipped the coal to New Orleans and Mobile.  The coal industry bowed down to wool which proved more profitable.  

The community built the original chapel in 1852 and lasted until 1967.  Records suggest that settlers had services and Sunday school pre-1850.  It was not easy to live on the Gulf Coast in the 1800s.  There was an array of struggles due to the warm weather and mosquito borne diseases.   The residence called the original building “The Old Rough and Ready” as it also served as a schoolhouse and meeting hall.  

Coalville Cemetery
The older section of Coalville Cemetery

A bigger chapel, consecrated in 1968, replaced the original.  Mr. Albert Felsher used some of the lumber to make a wooden cross that still hangs over the choir loft.  Through all these changes the cemetery was always the silent presence across the road. 

Coalville is close to my heart and family.  I am a direct descendent of many Coalville families.  I also spent the later part of my childhood living in Woolmarket when we moved there. The Reverend Louis Fayard was a noteworthy figure in the community.  He was a circuit court rider that would travel by horseback in order to conduct weddings, funerals, and services.  Many friends and family speak of him like a local folk hero. He is also a resident of Coalville Cemetery. 

Coalville Cemetery
Evenings at the “Rough and Ready”

Stories Among the Stones and Moss

Coalville Cemetery, at the time of the post, has at least 2,270 interments according to Find a Grave.  The historic wrought iron gate still stands as entry way to the historic gravestones.  I love the moss hanging over the massive oak trees next to the chapel, and enjoy strolling down the hill.  Most of the older gravesites are closer to the church and entry gate.  If you know how to look, you can easily be transported into time.  

“Remember me as you pass by, As you are now so once was I, As I am now so you must be, Prepare for death and follow me.”

The tomb of Sarah Azolean Wedgeworth impacts me the most.  She has an above ground burial, and was only 19 years old at the time of her death.  She passed September 4, 1857 making her one of the earliest in the cemetery.  However, the poem under her name will give you chills! 

The poem is fading, but is certainly still there.  

Coalville Cemetery
Urns are common symbols on gravestones.

When I arrived that Sunday evening, the sun had begun to set with the slightest hint of fall coming.  I wandered around the old section and ended visiting both of my maternal family lines in the family plots. Each plot tells a story and each one I find interesting.  On this visit, I noticed the close death dates of two Felsher children and their mother the summer of 1885.  

It is easy to find the stories of other stones and families also interesting.  I became curious of some of the markings on the tombstones throughout the cemetery.  Therefore, I made a list and went on a search for the subliminal meanings.  

Coalville Cemetery
My ancestor lost her live too early at the age of 10. The rose depicts a young girl lost before their time.
Coalville Cemetery
Anchors are seen on many stones at Coalville because of the close proximity to the Gulf and prominent sailors living in the community.

Common Symbols at Coalville Cemetery:

  • Lamb-The lamb, also a symbol of Jesus, shows the grave of a baby or child.  Stones with this symbol mark the grave of a child or baby land. A baby land is a plot specifically for infants. (As far as I know, Coalville does not have one.)
  • Urn-It represents immortality.  If a shroud is present, it ‘guards’ the ashes or urn.
  • Rose-The rose represents a young girl or woman who has passed.  The state of the rose is important to understand the age of the deceased.  A bud would be a very young girl, partial bloom is a teenager, and a rose in full bloom I a young unmarried woman. 
  • Anchor-It symbolizes hope and steadfastness.  It is also the mark for a sailor. With Coalville’s proximity to the Gulf Coast this symbol is very common around the grounds. 
  • Book-Although it is known for its scholarly meanings, it has other meanings when on headstones.  It can have a dual symbolism as the Bible or the Book of Life.  
  • 5 Point Star or Pentangle- I was curious about this mark the most.  I wondered if it actually had a less traditional meaning than the others.  It actually represents the five wounds of Christ and the spirit rising to Heaven.  Remember, the star always is bright against the darkness.  
Coalville Cemetery
The lamb is often found on the tops of the graves of children.
Coalville Cemetery
The book can still be viewed clearly on this stone.

Another interesting feature within the grounds of Coalville Cemetery are the seashells loosely placed on the top of headstones.  This is a Victorian tradition commonly seen in southeastern states.  Along with being used as decorations, the shells symbolize in a pilgrimage and can later represent a safe crossing into the afterlife.  The shells are often the conch shell or scallop shell.  However, at Coalville I found shells of the lightening whelk.  The lightening whelk is common along the Gulf of Mexico and can be found easily locally by beachcombers visiting the barrier islands.    

Coalville Cemetery
Angel watching over Coalville.

Stone letters, Thought Co, and The Cemetery Club are the websites I used to find this information.  I recommend looking at them further to decode other markers in the cemetery.

Coalville Cemetery
So much history is in Coalville Cemetery. I encourage you to take a look.

Other Notable Interments

Coalville Cemetery has many notable people buried on the grounds. The grounds host at least nine Civil War soldiers. There are also interments for Word War I, World War II, and many others. There are many past graduates of Woolmarket School when it went elementary to high school.

If you would like to learn more about the people buried in Coalville or a specific family member I recommend researching them. There are many free and helpful sources online. You can also visit the local genealogy library. I wrote a helpful article in April about some things to prepare for a visit to the library here.

I encourage everyone in the area to respectfully visit and observe the quiet beauty of Coaville Cemetery. Coalville Cemetery is located at 12556 Lorraine Road Bilox, MS 39532

Do you have any family buried here? Where is your favorite historical spot on the Mississippi Gulf Coast?

Do You Want to Build a Snowman in South Mississippi?

In my scanning adventures, I came across several sets of snow pictures.  These were taken on March 6, 1954 in Woolmarket.  (An area of north Biloxi for the non-coast residents.)  It goes without saying the snow is rare this far south.  So when it happens it is a big deal!  For years, my friends and I dreamed of a real white Christmas that has not happened yet.  We had a close call in 1996 when it snowed the day we dismissed for Christmas break, but of course it was gone by the weekend.

Make a warm beverage, and check out these snippets of a snow day gone by…

Woolmarket snow

“The First appreciable snowfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since February, 1936, sneaked in at the early hours today and laid a blanket of white beauty her the three coastal counties. it measured generally two inches.” ~The Daily Herald

Mississippi Gulf Coast Snow

“You never know–when the king of winter paid his impressive call, the kids had only yesterday been flying kites in the March wind and were planning picnics for next month. It was early Friday morning that coast residents reveled in the first light trace of snow in 18 years– and that didn’t even stick. Today they went out to inspect the magic stuff.”- The Daily Herald

Mississippi Gulf Coast Snow

“From the Pascagoula to the Pearl River, the snowman marched. Youngsters who had never seen snow before learned of the mighty sting of the snowball. And motorists who thought they would drive around and sightsee were pretty soon slipping and tossing in soggy streets of messy slush.”-The Daily Herald

Car in Snow Mississippi Gulf Coast

“Photo shops were rushed for film as picture-takers and snow-lovers feverishly shot scenes they could show their grandchildren.” -The Daily Herald

Mississippi Family Snow

“Everette Necaise, Fire Station 2, Gulfport called to say the firemen were building a five-foot snowman stead of playing checkers and would build it higher if anyone wanted a picture.” -The Daily Herald

Snowman Mississippi Gulf Coast

“Every yard along the Coast was its own wonderland. The trees the bushes and grass were trimmed in white lace and the setting from any angle like a Christmas card.”-The Daily Herald

Snow day fun Mississippi Gulf Coast

“People came to work singing the Yuletide songs; and at least one man rushed to his porch in his underwear, braving the 35-degree temperature to see if it was real.”- The Daily Herald

Mississippi Gulf Coast Snow

One last photo for the road!

I love sharing these photos on this muggy and foggy December morning.  Stay around for some more snow day memories this holiday week!