Harlingen Happenings

By Mary Torres, Special to the Star

In a few days, it will be Christmas Day, a day welcomed by people worldwide with a blend of old and new traditions, rituals, and activities. Christmas 2020 won’t be the same as any other year as we remain vigilant in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but we can still celebrate each other and stay safe by observing recommended protocols. Whether you’re spending the day with your family either in person or virtually,  take this opportunity to discover, celebrate, share, and preserve the stories of your ancestor’s lives.

Ask your family members how they celebrated Christmas when they were children – did they attend religious services, act in a school play, what kind of tree did they have and how was it decorated, and did they help prepare special dishes for Christmas dinner?  You can share what you’ve learned about your family tree and any stories or old photos you have and ask your relatives to share the memories that form your family’s unique history.

Enjoy and cherish this time with your family and friends. A special thank you to the organizations, businesses, and individuals in our community that have helped to make Christmas brighter for those most in need in the Rio Grande Valley, and please remember to keep the brave men and women serving in the military who may be observing this holiday far from home, in your thoughts and prayers. I hope that you find strength and comfort in the power of tradition and connection, however different they may be this year.

Are you still looking for a last-minute gift for the genealogist in your family? Many subscriptions and, DNA tests, and other goods can be purchased online and a certificate printed out which you can give to the recipient on Christmas morning. At the top of the list are subscriptions to paid genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com, Genealogybank.com, Findmypast.com, MyHeritage.com, Fold3.com, Newspapers.com, and others. DNA testing kits are another popular gift item and are available at Ancestry.com, FTDNA.com, 23andMe.com, MyHeritage.com, and others.

Many sites are running holiday specials so be sure to take advantage of those deals. Another site that I like is genealogygemspodcast@gmail.com by Lisa Louise Cooke. Ms. Cooke is a nationally known genealogy speaker and author. There are many interesting and educational podcasts available for free at Genealogy Gems, but there is also Genealogy Gems Premium eLearning which offers exclusive member benefits such as downloadable handouts for the Elevenses with Lisa show and archived episodes, 50+ premium videos most with downloadable handouts, a premium podcast audio archive and new and updated content is added monthly. A one-year gift membership is $49.95 and is available at lisalouisecooke.com. Last, but not least, an office supply store gift card is always appreciated.

If you are looking for an outdoor activity this holiday season, The Sabal Palm Sanctuary, 8400 Southmost Rd, Brownsville, TX, one of the most uniquely biodiverse habitats in the country has one of the last  Sabal Palm forests in the U.S. It provides habitat for endangered or high-priority birds and for migrating and wintering species. The sanctuary, operated by the Gorgas Science Foundation, is open 7 days a week from 7 AM to 5 PM but is closed December 23, 24, and 25. The visitor’s center is located in the 1892 Rabb Plantation Home. Admission is $5.00 – Adults and $3.00 – Children. For more information call (956) 541-8034 or visit  www.sabalpalmsanturay.org.

The Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum, 2425 Boxwood St., is closed December 24th & 25th but reopens Saturday, December 26 at 10 AM. Visit the “Christmas Tree Extravaganza,” which will be available for viewing until December 30.  For more information call  956-216-4901.


Have a safe, happy, and socially distanced celebration, everyone!