There’s something magical about making an escape during the holiday season. Our family has been celebrating Christmas traditions for years, but there has always been unscheduled time right after Turkey Day. With the Thanksgiving meal a recent memory, we packed an overnight bag and headed east. As the sun crested the horizon, our conversation and music, turned to Christmas. The promise of boughs of greenery, shining tinsel, and gilded ornaments inspired me to hurry along. By mid-morning, we were pulling into town and turning down the brick-paved Main Street. The festivities were about to begin, so we hurried to join the gathering crowd. The festival started with a parade of Christmas characters from throughout the ages.

Welcome to St. Charles

Each year, Historic Downtown St. Charles transforms into a holiday dreamscape. A cast of characters, from throughout the ages, descend upon Main Street to greet and entertain visitors. Since the holidays are filled with melodious sounds, it would be expected to find an assortment of singers. If that was all we were to discover, it would be plenty. Taking this event to the next level, St. Charles has also included a variety of storytellers. As they paraded past us, on their way to their stations, we could see the array of time periods being represented. Once the parade passed, we headed off to engage with the locals.

Santa's from around the world are represented at the Christmas Traditions festival.

Notable Dignitaries

Situated at the heart of Main Street, Kister Park is a perfect place to start the adventure. Here is where Santas from around the globe gather to share their stories. The Christmas Traditions festival centers around the various versions of this benevolent elf. We filed along the path, stopping to hear each tale. Each reenactor presents guests with a “playing card” that tells details about their character. You can visit Père Noël (France), St. Nicholas (Germany), Babbo Natale (Italy), or Kris Kringle (U.S. and Canada). It was interesting to hear how each culture celebrates this notable character with its own variation.

A Christmas Traditions character shares a story with some of the visitors.

Meet & Mingle

At the heart of the park is an old-fashioned gazebo. A choir of carolers had gathered and were sharing a medley of Christmas carols. As we sang along under our breath, we watched the interactions between visitors and reenactors. The St. Charles Christmas Traditions is definitely a family event. Couples strolled through, noting the beautiful costumes. Children scurried from character to character, making sure to collect each card. Little ones stare in amazement, as their parents introduce them to the cast of notables. The chill in the air simply helped it feel like the holiday season.

We found a wide variety of Christmas characters throughout downtown St. Charles.

Cast of Characters

Even though our time in the park had been fun, we knew it was just the tip of the iceberg. We headed down Main Street with no particular destination. The brick street is lined with rows of historic buildings. With two days to explore, we decided to spend our time searching out the holiday hidden gems. Many of the characters are stationed at set points along this main route. Each has its own unique way of entertaining the crowds. While we were able to quickly discern the identity of most, there were a few that had us stumped. This gave us a chance to be educated about different Christmas traditions.

The crowd enjoys interacting with the various characters during the St. Charles Christmas Traditions festival.


We were enjoying the well-planned layout for the Christmas Traditions festival. With a mix of carolers, from throughout the ages, it gave us a chance to hear all types of holiday songs. Since the event is spread along many blocks, they were able to stagger the placement of the singing groups. As the sounds of one acapella group faded, we would hear the new melody rising in the distance. This helped guide our exploration, as we eagerly sought out the next melodious choir.

Carolers form across the ages entertain visitors to downtown St. Charles.

and Tunes!

Each group represents a moment in time. A group of Victorian singers delights the crowd with traditional Christmas carols. A little further down the road, we found ourselves enjoying some classics from the 1940s & 50s. These were being belted out by an assembly of USO-style entertainers. In between songs, they share tales of their ties with visitors who have gathered. Once again, we found that they were handing out playing cards, just like the Santas.

The Christmas atmosphere permeates downtown St. Charles.

Memorable Moments

The event schedule listed items running well into the evening. The early sunset would usually be a signal to head indoors, but not during this festival. As the darkness deepened, the twinkling lights took center stage. The street was blocked off and the crowd spread out into the road. We stopped for a cup of wassail to sip as we strolled. Window displays beckoned us to approach for a closer inspection. Vintage ornaments reminded us of our childhoods and we shared stories from our youths. This was one of our favorite Christmas-themed visits. If you are looking for another good Christmas destination, check out our article on Silver Dollar City.

Christmas Traditions isn't just about the characters, but also includes plenty of shopping and dining opportunities.

Spruced Up

Our second day in St. Charles greeted us with overcast skies. The winds had risen and the wind chill dropped. It was really beginning to feel like Christmas. Now it was time to look beyond the pretty dressings that decorated Main Street. The path is lined with a variety of establishments. Boutique shops are flanked by quaint eateries all trying to attract visitors. We shuffled from stop to stop, keeping our eyes peeled for holiday gift ideas. This historic city lies in the shadow of St. Louis, so many shops gave a nod to the local sports teams. A delicious late lunch, at a local eatery, signaled the time for us to start thinking about the road home.

The authors pause to reflect on their time in St. Charles.

Celebrating Christmas Traditions

Being prepared for the wintery weather allowed us to enjoy our visit to St. Charles, Missouri. Layers of clothing, hand and foot warmers and fashionable hats kept us toasty during our excursion. We arrived in town with hope and curiosity and satisfied both. Two days allowed us enough time to interact with the characters and still get in some shopping. Another day would have been nice, but a visit can certainly be completed in this timeframe. We left town knowing that this would not be our last visit and that this festival would be added to our Christmas traditions.

the authors signatures.

Celebrate Christmas Traditions in St. Charles, Missouri!

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