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Top Ten Cary Christmas Memories

12 Dec 2020 3:45 PM | Kerry Mead (Administrator)

For a walk down memory lane, check out these top Cary Christmas memories we rounded up from Cary residents.

1. Luminaries

One of the most beloved Cary traditions, a local Boy Scout Troop started the Cary luminaria tradition here in 1973, a time when Cary was much smaller, and neighborhoods worked together to light luminaries in front of their homes. These magical lights have been lining our streets on Christmas Eve ever since. In addition to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girl troops now participate in this annual tradition. 



Starting in 1989 and continuing throughout the 1990s, a live reindeer exhibit became a big part of Cary family Christmas traditions. Five reindeer (with antlers!) travelled all the way from Oregon each year to delight area residents. As South Hills Mall became known as the place with the reindeer, the mall created a mascot, and Rodney the Reindeer was born!


3. Tom’s Train Station at South Hills 

While at South Hills Mall to see the reindeer, families would then walk inside to Tom’s Train Station to see the miniature trains on display there! Tom’s was open from 1997 until 2015, delighting young and old alike.


4. Downtown Fountain Light Display

Lit red and green for Christmas, the water fountain in the town’s new downtown park is quickly becoming a must-see Christmas tradition. The park plaza and fountain were built and opened in 2017.


5. Jaycees’ Cary Christmas Parade

Started in 1979, the Jaycee parade has been a not-to-be-missed Christmas activity on the second Saturday in December of each year. Filled with local dance groups, Boy Scout troops, marching bands, and businesses, this is a favorite of families with children, who have fun catching candy being thrown by passing floats. Once Santa has passed, you know the parade has ended and it’s time to head home, pockets stuffed with candy. This year, the parade went virtual!


6. Cary Tree Lighting

Cary got its first official Christmas tree in 1984. The 37-foot cedar was lit on December 13 of that year. Ever since, Cary has held a special tree lighting event featuring local talent to kick off the holiday season. This year, the Friends of the Page-Walker’s very own board member, Brent Miller, honored with the Hometown Spirit Award this year, had the privilege of lighting the tree.

Watch the 2020 virtual tree lighting here: https://archive.org/details/tocnc-Town_of_Cary_Virtual_Christmas_Tree_Lighting

Town of Cary Christmas Tree

7. Victorian Christmas at the Page-Walker

Our beloved Page-Walker Arts & History Center in downtown Cary, is well-known for its annual Christmas celebration that includes Victorian carolers and horse-led carriage rides. The Victorian Christmas began as a Holiday Open House in 1991, once the restoration of the Page-Walker was complete, and is held in conjunction with the annual Christmas tree lighting on the Town Hall campus each year.

Although cancelled for 2020, check out the Victorian Christmas at the Page-Walker webpage in 2021 for next year’s celebration: https://www.townofcary.org/recreation-enjoyment/events/holiday-events/heart-of-the-holidays-celebration/page-walker-holiday-open-house

8. Cary Theater’s “White Christmas” Sing-a-long

Started in 2014, this popular sing-a-long was started to make a classic Christmas movie into a fun, interactive, community-based event. Each participant gets a “goodie” bag with snow, Christmas bells, a song-booklet and a candy cane.  Participants get a run-down of the instructions before the film starts and the patrons take it from there!  This event has become a yearly staple at The Cary and we have enjoyed seeing multi-generational attendance.  The joy and laughter on people’s faces has truly been magical. Although the sing-a-long is canceled for 2020, there are holiday movies The Cary is streaming this holiday season.


9. The Gifting Tree Project

Have you noticed the many beautifully decorated Christmas trees along Academy Street in downtown? Local families, schools, and organizations compete in this fun event each year to win a donation they give to a nonprofit organization. The Gifting Tree Project is in its ninth year this year!


10. NC Chinese Lantern Festival

Beginning in 2015, area residents have enjoyed Chinese lantern lights at Booth Amphitheater. Although Booth Amphitheater is closed this year due to Covid, a number of these beautiful lanterns are available for you to see for free, spread out throughout downtown Cary!


NC Chinese Lantern festival, 2016


  • 17 Dec 2020 5:41 PM | Anonymous
    Boy Scout troop from St. Michael Cath. Ch when it was on Walnut St. Father's and sons in the troop started Lumanaria in Cary. About 1970's. We worked all of MacGregor Downs and at my home I served boys and Dads hot dogs and soup all day. Many memories of that Xmas and every year til my husband and our sons grew older and out of scouts.
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