Austin has seldom felt the need to conform with tradition, and Christmas is no exception. Each year, from Dec. 12 to 24, local musicians and artisans come together for the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, a self-described "honky tonk bar shopping experience," which began as a two-day event in 1976 and quickly grew into an annual festival of unique gifts, good cheer and, as always in Austin, great live music. If you're truly looking to do as the locals do, in Austin that means checking out the stretch of 37th Street just east of Guadalupe where a confab of homeowners puts on a blowout extravaganza of lights displays. In the days leading up to Christmas, parades of visitors wander down the street, looping in and out of backyards where, as thanks for the show, they clip $1s, $5s and $20s to clotheslines or, next to the whirring electric meter at one home, stuff money into a beer mug. And of course, downtown there's the uniquely Austin Zilker tree, constructed from strands of lights that spiral down from the 155-foot Moonlight Tower (17 of the original 31 Moonlight Towers, which made up the city's public lighting system, remain). Whatever your fancy, there's plenty to get you into the holiday spirit, in an off-beat, simply Austin, kind of way.
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