They say there’s no place like home for the holidays, but few places in the world know how to celebrate the season quite like Germany. Alabamians can get the best of both worlds—with traditions near and far—during Christmas in Cullman. The monthlong celebration pays homage to the Southern town’s German heritage with a series of events designed to help locals and visitors alike get in the Christmas spirit.
Cullman was founded by German refugee Col. Johan Gottfried Cullmann from Frankweiler (then Bavaria) in 1877. Cullmann initially lived in Cincinnati, Ohio but soon after began ideating about creating a colony where immigrants could work and live together. He bought passage on a boat to Florence, Alabama and met with Governor Patton to present the idea. From there, he was given men and horses for his expedition through North Alabama. A few years and a few thousand colonists later, Cullman was born.
For the past few decades, Cullman has been celebrating in style with a full schedule of events now known as Christmas in Cullman. Arguably the main attraction of Christmas in Cullman, the annual lighting of the Christmas Pyramid, takes place on the day after Thanksgiving. Known in Germany as the Weihnachtspyramide, this traditional German decoration is a multi-level pyramid where each segment represents different seasonal elements through wooden figures and scenes. The top is crowned with a large fan. Typically, the seasonal décor is hung from the ceiling or set on a table, but since Cullman’s towers over 30 feet in the air, and is the tallest such structure in the U.S., it stands alone near the Cullman County Museum. The lighting of the pyramid will take place at 6 p.m. on November 25. Pyramid level themes include: the Nativity, nutcrackers, Santa and snowmen, angels, honoring Cullman’s heroes, and angels in Heaven.
Cullman’s Christmas celebrations continue into December with the annual Christmas Parade on December 2. The nighttime parade kicks off at 6 p.m. from Busy Bee Café and ends its route at Depot Park, where the annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony will occur following the conclusion of the parade. The ceremony includes music, crafts for kids, pictures with Santa, food and the lighting of the town’s 72-foot tree. Seeing the community’s businesses and locals come together to light up the town is something truly special.
If you’re still not convinced that Cullman during the holiday season is an absolute must, Cullman’s Christkindlmart should do the trick. Modeled after a traditional German Christmas market, Cullman’s rendition features a collection of wooden tents housing local vendors. You’ll find everything from holiday ornaments to gifts and other handmade items. Stroll through the outdoor market with a warm glühwein in hand and let all your European Christmas dreams come true.
Though not part of the German traditions, another event that’s fun for the whole family is the Sportsman Lake Winter Wonderland Christmas Light Display, held on select dates from November 18 through December 30. Pile into the car with friends and family to see over a million lights and themed displays. To add to the festivities, there’s also a Christmas train, carriage rides, snow machine, hot chocolate, and photo booth to capture all your special memories.