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7 Weirdly Specific Holiday Festivals Around the U.S.

Every town has a Christmas festival, but not every town has a Charles Dickens-themed street party or a coffin race.

By Emily Handy on December 6, 2021

Nederland CO

Almost every town and city has a tree-lighting ceremony or a Christmas parade this time of year, but just in case you’re looking for a more unique holiday celebration, we rounded up some of the most delightfully offbeat, unexpected, and weirdly specific holiday festivals in every corner of the country. 

The best part? While some of these festivals are Christmas-centric, not all of the fun is limited to November and December. Make the most of the winter events, then gear up for coffin racing in March. Because yes, that’s a thing. 

Franklin TN
Franklin / Courtesy of Derek Bruff under a CC 2.0 license.

1. Franklin, TN: Dickens of a Christmas Festival

Step back in time as you taste, see and hear Charles Dickens’ Victorian winter wonderland at the annual Dickens of a Christmas Festival. Downtown Franklin’s historic Victorian-style architecture provides the perfect backdrop for munching on sugar plums and roasted chestnuts as you try to catch a glimpse of Tiny Tim and Scrooge. Even more charming? Each day concludes with town-wide Christmas carols.

2. Warrens, WI: Warrens Cranberry Festival

Located in the teeny tiny Wisconsin village of Warrens is the Warrens Cranberry Festival, held the last weekend of September for nearly 50 years. The festival draws in crowds from all over the state to celebrate the tart fruit and guests can sign up for a tour of the cranberry marshes, or see if you can find the hidden medallion on festival grounds. Also, this might be the only place on Earth you can find deep-fried cranberries on a stick.

3. Stowe, VT: Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival

This one’s for all those competitive pumpkin-chuckers out there. High-powered catapults and homemade trebuchets fill the festival grounds as fierce competition gets underway, each person trying to chuck their pumpkin the farthest. Each year the pumpkins are chucked farther, with last year’s record being an incredible 689 feet. This one-day event happens annually in Stowe, VT. Happy chucking, y’all!

4. Philadelphia, PA: Historic Philadelphia Franklin Square Holiday Festival

We had to include this one, if only because the name is so long and specific — Historic Philadelphia Franklin Square Holiday Festival. We also love it because it lasts for the majority of November all the way until Dec. 31 every year, giving visitors plenty of time to check out the Philadelphia-based tradition. The square is lit up beautifully with more than 50,000 lights in the annual Electrical Spectacle light show. Throughout the holiday season, festive shopping, foods and other events can also be found in the square.

5. Nederland, CO: Frozen Dead Guy Days 

Originally created to (loosely) celebrate the 1994 discovery of the cryogenic corpse of Bredo Morstoel, the Frozen Dead Guy Days are probably the weirdest thing you’ve heard of all day. The kooky festival has been held in the Colorado town of Nederland each March since 2002. Coffin racing, a hearse parade, icy turkey bowling(!) and a polar plunge are just some of the events festival-goers can participate in, and this town gets really into it.

6. Sun Valley, ID: The Trailing of the Sheep Festival 

Ever wanted to see 1,500 sheep being herded down a street? Join the club! For 22 years, the Trailing of the Sheep Festival in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho has celebrated the history of sheep ranching and herding out West. A jam-packed program includes dozens of workshops, presentations, concerts and competitions. Be sure to enter your dog in the sheep herding contest! Don’t be sheepish, this festival takes place every fall!

7. New Braunfels, TX: Wassailfest 

If you’ve never had wassail, you’re seriously missing out. This sweet and spicy warm holiday beverage is so good, it’s no wonder there’s a whole festival dedicated to it! At Wassailfest, vendors hand out endless free samples of wassail, and guests vote on the best one. Food, shopping and a special appearance by Santa himself round out the event. New Braunfels hosts this event on the first Thursday of December every year, making it a beloved (and delicious) holiday tradition for many.

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