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Atlanta’s festive Christmases of yore and today — in photos!

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With the Great Tree, the Pink Pig, and lights galore, Christmas in Atlanta has offered lots through the years

Christmas in Atlantic Station — a more recent celebration in the city.
Christmas in Atlantic Station — a more recent, New Urbanism-y celebration in the city.
Searching Atlanta

While Atlanta may not be geographically situated to enjoy a white Christmas very often (the region experienced a 128-year white Christmas drought until 2010), the city isn’t one to shy away from the holiday season.

Whether for shopping, or just whipping up a little Christmas joy in an urban setting, Atlanta has long been a destination in the Southeast.

With less than a week until Christmas, let’s take a sleigh ride down memory lane and enjoy some glimpses of Christmases past (and present) in Atlanta:

In 1949, carolers fill each floor of the Crystal Bridge spanning Forsyth Street between Rich’s flagship store at Five Points and the Home Store building, completed just a year prior to the photo. Atop the modernist bridge stands the Rich’s Great Tree, which had also debuted a year earlier to bring Christmas joy downtown.
via Atlanta History Center
In 1960, the Great Tree presides above Christmastime traffic at Five Points as shoppers stream out of the now-demolished Rich’s parking deck that once stood over the railroad gulch.
via Atlanta History Center

The Great Tree tradition still survives today at Macy’s. After the Rich’s store closed downtown in 1991, the tree was moved to Underground until it found a new home atop Lenox Square. Since an unfortunate incident in 2012, the tree has been replaced by a towering green cone.

Another fixture of the downtown Rich’s store was a suspended children’s ride known as the Pink Pig. The miniature monorail system ran around the roof of Rich’s, providing an aerial view of the growing downtown skyline. Like the tree, the ride became a victim of Rich’s closing, but it’s since been reincarnated as a train ride in the parking deck at Lenox Square.
GSU Archives
Today, the Pink Pig isn’t quite the experience it used to be, but it still provides plenty of excitement for kids atop the parking deck at Lenox Square.
Occupy My Family

For those who like a more traditional take on Southern Christmases, one of the biggest highlights of the season can be over-the-top light shows. There are plenty of displays to be found across the metro area, including popular drive-through ones at Lake Lanier and Callaway Gardens.

A large Christmas lights display has been a holiday staple at Life University in Marietta since 1989.
Christmas Moment

For those who like more participatory activities, Atlanta also offers outdoor “ice” skating throughout the city. While the frozen stuff may not be real, and the temperature could be in the 70s, rinks at places like Centennial Olympic Park and Atlantic Station have been providing a place to skate for years.

Centennial Olympic Park may be best known for summer outdoor shenanigans, but the downtown venue has hosted an ice-skating rink since the late 1990s, following the Centennial Olympic Games.
via Explore Georgia

Finally, for those who prefer to summon the Christmas spirit while sitting inside (shielded from arctic, 52-degree breezes), the Atlanta Ballet offers The Nutcracker at the Fabulous Fox Theatre.

The Atlanta has been putting on The Nutcracker at the Fox Theatre in Midtown for years. If the historic theater — completed in 1929 — isn’t enough to draw you in, every Christmas the show is changed a little to keep returning audiences immersed.