Editor’s Note: To celebrate the City of Gainesville turning 200 years old on Nov. 30, 2021, Gainesville Georgia Government is sharing interesting highlights from its centuries-old history. This is the first installment in a series, which will be featured monthly through November 2021 on gainesville.org and social media. For December, we present to you tidbits from the history behind your favorite holiday events and how they evolved into cherished community traditions.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. (Dec. 25, 2020) – While there are many things to love about the City of Gainesville, one thing we’re applauded for is our holiday celebrations.
Jingle Mingle and Lighting of the Chicken
There's no question – Jingle Mingle and the Lighting of the Chicken serves as the official kickoff to the holiday season in downtown Gainesville.
Started many years ago by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Jingle Mingle began as a monthly Business After Hours networking event in partnership with Main Street Gainesville, according to Chamber reps. From there, it transformed into a family-friendly event and was officially handed off to the city in 2019.
While the 2020 event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, Jingle Mingle and the Lighting of the Chicken is known as a time of gathering featuring the Lighting of the Chicken, live entertainment, photos with Santa, carriage rides and more, plus efforts encouraging community support of downtown businesses, many of which hold specials or giveaways throughout the evening.
And what about the chicken, you ask?
Known as the Poultry Capital of the World, the City of Gainesville offers a unique tradition not easily matched elsewhere. The “chicken” lit during the Lighting of the Chicken isn’t a real one, but a handcrafted 25-foot-tall metal bird weighing 1,500 pounds. The icon sits atop Main Street Market, at the corner of Main and Spring streets on the historic square. While the chicken has evolved over the years, the original chicken was installed roughly 15 years ago, starting what’s now known as one of the most far-out and fun holiday traditions in Northeast Georgia.
Christmas on Green Street
We have the Gainesville Historical Society to thank for starting the tradition of Christmas on Green Street in 2002, before the City of Gainesville was asked to take it over in 2018 when the society disbanded.
Christmas on Green Street remains a beloved holiday tradition among residents and visitors alike. One of the biggest highlights of Christmas on Green Street is the parade, which attracts annually the attendance of thousands. The parade was first featured in 2002 as a car-only show, though it quickly evolved to include marching bands, floats, etc. The 2020 parade was adapted to reflect the safety challenges of the pandemic, and winners of an outdoor holiday decorating contest were visited by a drive-by parade of city staff and vehicles led by Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
Christmas on Green Street is also cherished for the live music and drama performances by local groups, activities on the Gainesville Civic Center lawn, storytellers at historic Green Street homes, paper lanterns placed and lit by local nonprofits, plus the Lighting of the Rotary Tree (see below), located at the corner of Green and Washington streets behind the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.
Lighting of the Rotary Tree
In 1934, the Gainesville Garden Club dedicated this park to the memory of Mary John Dunlap Mitchell, a club member active in local improvement projects.
Today, the Rotary Club of Gainesville maintains this open space for the benefit of the community. The Rotary Club regularly prunes the native holly tree (Ilex opaca) and provides year-round landscape services to this triangular park space.
For Christmas, the Rotary Club furnishes tree lights, while the City of Gainesville staff hang and remove the lights each year. The lighting of the native holly tree, which heralds the Christmas season, has been a tradition of the Rotary Club of Gainesville since the first lighting in December 1982.
Other community festivities
Other Christmas traditions observed in the community include, but aren’t limited to, the annual Love Light Tree Lighting Celebration at Northeast Georgia Medical Center - Gainesville campus, the Gainesville Ballet Co.’s annual performance of “The Nutcracker”, a Christmas concert at First Baptist Church of Gainesville, a Christmas performance by the Voices of North Georgia, a Christmas exhibit at the Northeast Georgia History Center and more.