Draped in twinkling lights and garland, instead of streamers and tailgate tents.

Mississippi: Oxford
Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Mississippi might get its charm from old-fashioned town squares, antebellum mansions, and highways marked with blues and barbecue; but at Christmastime, it's all about draping those hallmarks in twinkling lights, lush greenery, and a little magic. For those looking for a holiday trip complete with a real gingerbread village, holiday market, ornament auction, Santa's Workshop, and hometown parade, then a certain small town might be calling you to jingle its way: Oxford, Mississippi.

While the college town may be known mainly for two things, paperbacks and quarterbacks, Christmas in Oxford is something all its own. Here, making merry together and sharing in the Christmas spirit of giving takes precedent—and the more, the merrier. So here's why you should plan a visit to this historic Mississippi town this Christmas.

Tour the festive gingerbread house village displayed at Oxford's Holiday Village.

It's not every season that you get to spend time in the quiet and calm of a magical village made of gingerbread. Gingerbread crafters build a sweet delight for your senses in this Christmas village that'll instantly make you crave a Christmas cookie. (Head to Bottletree Bakery for that fix.) In the spirit of the season, this event supports local food banks and encourages guests to bring non-perishable donations. If you're visiting Oxford during the first few weekends of December, you can catch this annual tradition.

Give your bid at the annual Holiday Ornament Auction.

Don't miss your chance to take home a one-of-a-kind Christmas ornament created by a local Mississippi artisan at this holiday auction. Giving is the reason for the season—and here you can do your part while enjoying the cuisine of Oxford's most celebrated chefs and dancing to live music.

Pick your spot on the Square for the Christmas Parade.

Southerners love a small town parade at Christmas. Add in Oxford's charming town square full of twinkling lights, and you're set for a festive affair. The parade is typically held on the first Monday of December, but something tells us you won't mind staying the extra night in this merry Christmas town.

Avoid the winter chill by eating your way through this celebrated Southern food city.

This college town isn't all about books and ball—the food scene is the real sleeper star. Make your holiday visit even better by eating your way through Oxford's best restaurants. Located in a former gas station-turned-carwash just a few blocks north of the Square, Oxford Canteen is there to fill your belly with its beloved breakfast tacos and beef brisket grilled cheese. Renowned Southern chef John Currence will have you praying for more with his establishments: Big Bad Breakfast and City Grocery. Whether splurging on BBB's biscuits slathered with sausage gravy or City Grocery's creamy shrimp and grits, kiss that holiday diet farewell for a spell.

Make your own magic at Santa's Workshop.

It wouldn't be Christmas in the South without some slightly messy, unabashedly merry craftmaking. Pay a visit to the University Museum for a family day packed full with festivities: making seasonal crafts, snacking on holiday treats, and touring the gingerbread village. Typically during the first weekend of December, Santa's Workshop ensures every family leaves with a sleigh-full of memories.

Go on an old-fashioned Christmas lights hunt during Oxford's Nights of Lights.

Who doesn't love driving around and checking out the best light displays at Christmas? Southerners love to judge things, after all. Take the family on the road for a Christmas lights tour in this festive Mississippi town. Follow a digital map of local homes dripping in lights, and make sure to honk at the very best in show! (You're a local? You can apply for your decorated house to be featured on the map.) This holiday event spans the first few weeks of December.

Revel in the historic town's love for literature by visiting William Faulkner's stomping grounds and snagging a holiday read at Square Books.

From Faulkner's stunning white antebellum home, Rowan Oak, to his grave, Oxford is the ultimate literary destination to get a glimpse into the life of a Southern icon. (Christmas always does tend to make us feel a bit nostalgic.) Visit both historic sites during your trip. If smelling fresh book pages and meandering through creaky bookshelves sounds like holiday heaven, you might want to post up at the local bookstore, Square Books. Spanning a trio of post-Civil War buildings on the town square, this spot offers a quiet respite in the holiday craziness.

Complete your Christmas shopping at the local holiday markets and the South's first department store.

Fill your Santa sack with artisanal gifts from over 65 vendors at the Hotty Toddy Holiday Marketplace—and don't worry, you can grab a mimosa or Bloody Mary at the festive affair before making your rounds. Sip, see, and shop at this annual event. (Girlfriend getaway, anyone?) In the Square, you'll also find the oldest department store in the South: Neilson's. The store just celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2014 and anchors the historic town square with its grand façade and an interior chock-full of china patterns, specialty gifts, and classic Southern threads.

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