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Decades Old Tradition in Old Town Alexandria

The holiday season in America has become a truly commercialized affair. Nowhere was that more apparent than last weekend, with almost the entire time centered around shopping. From Black Friday to Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, the kickoff to the holiday season is and has been a rush to snatch up the cheapest TVs and the newest game consoles.

But there is a lot more to the holidays than the gifts you give. The holiday season is a time to relax and unwind. To celebrate festivities and enjoy camaraderie and community.

Thankfully, this weekend, one neighborhood in Virginia is kicking off its holiday month with events that having nothing to do with heading to the mall or the web.

Old Town Alexandria, one of the prettiest neighborhoods in D.C. metro area, is holding two holiday celebrations this Saturday, both different, but both delights.

Kicking off the day is the Scottish Christmas Walk. The parade, which celebrates this area’s rich Scottish heritage, has become one the city’s biggest events of the year. It’s a free event and it travels right through the heart of Old Town. It’s been an annual occurrence for over 40 years, and this time is expected to bring 30,000 people to Old Town.

The Walk takes place this Saturday, at 11:00 a.m. The weather for this year’s event is supposed to be perfect, with temperatures in the mid-50s. The parade has a multitude of different group participating, among which are the Washington Scottish Pipe Band, the Alexandria Police Honor guard and over 100 different Scottish clans from around the area. Also trotting along will be one of Scotland’s most well-known immigrants to America: Scottish Terriers. These little dogs, native to the highlands, will prance along the route on all fours, presented by several local animal societies.

The parade route runs in a loop around the center of Old Town, starting south of Duke Street on St. Asaph Street, heading north to Queen Street before turning around and coming right up King Street, Old Town’s main artery.

The walk, which includes  a Taste of Scotland on Friday as well as other events, is put on by The Campagna Center.  The entire weekend will raise money for many of Alexandria’s children’s educational programs, including Head Start, which helps promote educational readiness for kids before they attend elementary school.

A few hours after the parade comes another Washington tradition, which is, in fact, also another parade. This one, though, isn’t on pavement. It’s on the Potomac.

The Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights has been held every year for two decades, and is another of this riverfront town’s most popular events.

The event begins at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday with music and entertainment on the docks behind Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory. From there, one of the water parade’s centerpieces, Santa, comes to the harbor, arriving on a massive fireboat.

After Kris Kringle shows up, more than 50 boats follow, decked out in lights and decorations, cruising slowly along the river, up to Washington, D.C., where the route ends at the Washington Channel.

The boats are extravagant. The parade is a competition, with prizes given in several categories.

It’s a very unique site, which makes Old Town the perfect place to get in the right holiday frame of mind.

– David







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