The website “onlyinyourstate.com” lists my hometown, St. Charles, as one of the top eleven Christmas towns in Missouri. I feel very fortunate and blessed to live in such a great historical area. In 1804, the famous explorers, Merriweather Lewis and William Clark started their historic journey from the banks of the Missouri River which runs just beyond Main Street in St. Charles. Missouri became a state in 1821 and St. Charles was chosen as its first State Capitol. Many of the buildings date back from the mid-1850s.
Until I was about nine years old, we lived just two blocks from Main Street, the historical area of St. Charles in a duplex that was built in 1903. Back then, it was just a street where we did most of our shopping. I remember going to Woolworths and buying little china shoe knick-knacks for ten cents each and to the newsstand to buy the newest Archie comic. I remember going to the Huning Dry Goods store with my mom and marveling at the many bolts of fabric on a table that looked like it went on forever. And I remember the old wooden plank floor and the way the store smelled like something old, but still something good.
My dad would walk down the hill from our house to First National Bank on Main Street every Friday night to deposit his paycheck. He’d usually walk back up the hill past our house to Irvel’s Cocktail Lounge two blocks away and have a few drinks. Dad wasn’t a big drinker and the only argument I remember my mom and dad ever had was over him spending a little too much time at “Irvel’s.” I distinctly remember my mom saying “well, I hope that place burns down” and dad calmly remarking “now, Jeanette, you know you don’t mean that”, and of course she didn’t.
After the advent of shopping plazas and shopping centers and people found it easier to park in a wide parking lot instead of trying to find a parallel parking spot on the street, Main Street gradually remade itself into a tourist destination. Christmas time in Historic Main Street is a treat for anyone. Each year, the city puts on its “Christmas Traditions Festival”.
Every year, the charming town of St. Charles celebrates the holidays in a huge way, with the festivities happening all throughout the entire month leading up to Christmas. During the town’s annual Christmas Traditions Festival, the historic town is filled with wandering carolers, Santas from around the world, and beautiful holiday décor accompanying great shopping and dining opportunities.
Character actors and carolers wander among the crowds. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride, have a hot drink or a cold drink or a meal or get wonderful cookies at Grandma’s Cookies. If that isn’t enough, there are always Riverside Sweets where you can indulge your sweet tooth with plenty of chocolates, ice cream and taffies.
And if you go in the evening, the twinkling lights are just so charming.
The “Gold Star Tree” honors the men and women who paid the ultimate price in the service of our county, as well as the Silver Stars (those who served and were wounded) and the Blue Stars, those who are currently serving.
It is a lovely way to spend an afternoon or a weekend evening strolling along the cobblestone streets and sidewalks (which although are very quaint, you have to really watch where you are going…and don’t wear high heels).