We always spin under the Zilker Christmas tree at least once between early December, when the lights are turned on, and New Year’s Eve, when they go off.
Even before we had kids, my husband and I would take a spin. Since they were born we’ve made it an annual tradition to go to Chuy’s on Barton Springs Road around 4 pm, park on the street before it gets crowded, enjoy a decadent Tex-Mex dinner surrounded by the loudest decor in Austin, and then walk across Barton Creek and up the hill to the tree.
This year we made it to the Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 7th. I love the lighting ceremony for its sweet, small-town feel. There’s always a manageable crowd of happy people of all ages; a band playing Christmas tunes; a yule-log bonfire (even when it’s warm, like this year); and tented booths selling paper bags of savory Kettle Korn, paper plates greasy with deep-fried, sugar-dusted funnel cakes, and corn dogs. The tree is so large that everyone mills around inside the perimeter of lights.
Elementary students who won a Zilker-tree coloring contest are applauded as they hold their framed masterpieces on stage. The young winner gets the honor of helping the mayor flip the switch that turns on the tree.
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1! Yea! The tree comes to life, and everyone cheers. Oldest to youngest, clasping hands in a circle of friends, or holding tight to a child on one’s shoulders, or orbiting solo, all gazing up at the underside of the tree—nearly everyone starts spinning.
In a moment your eyes are spinning too as dizziness takes over. You stop spinning and stagger, laughing, trying not to fall down.
Last year Annie in Austin wrote a song about spinning under the tree, and her lyrics played in my mind as I spun this year.
I noticed that the tree’s star and the moon neatly lined up. If only Jupiter and Venus, so bright in the sky right now, had been higher, I’d have really had a picture.
I’m sure the man in the moon must have been gazing down with delight to see all the happy faces under the Zilker Tree this evening.
All material © 2006-2008 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.