Twelve Days of Christmas Traditions: Four Hours on the Wait List

Full disclosure - I don't exactly know the minute details of the genesis of this particular tradition; I only know it's now one thing I feel my Christmas season can't do without (and I know Tamara agrees). I think it basically went like this: Emily moved to STL in 2002 (3?), found St. Charles to be a really charming place, somehow learned their old-fashioned Christmas is particularly delightful, shared, and we've been going in December ever since.

Here's what it is, in case you haven't been there: first, imagine you're living in the world of Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge.

The pirate appeared in "A Christmas Carol" deleted scenes.

That's it. That's what it's like. You walk down St. Charles' historic main street, lined with old brick buildings done up like shops and businesses in the 1800's. Antiques, baked goods, souvenirs, craft items, toys, clothing, artwork, restaurants - it's all there along a half-mile stretch of brick-cobbled road.

If you can pretend the cars aren't there, it's even MORE magical.

During the Christmas season, carolers in Dickens-era clothing go around and wish you a merry holiday; an old-timey Santa Claus hobnobs with the kids;  you can buy fresh roasted chestnuts or warm cookies or fresh kettle corn; or you can enjoy a horse-and-carriage ride if you like.

The horse even speaks Cockney.

A key part to this tradition is the not-so-much-a-contest-as-an-activity to see who can find what for $5. Dad gives each person five dollars to buy a little treasure or trinket or bauble or doodad. People have bought food, toys, and antiques - one I'll always enjoy is the old-style candle holder I bought for $4 at a store to be mentioned below. The rules have since been bent to allow someone to use the $5 toward something - I've done that to buy a nutcracker or two.

Photo brought to you by Flickr and the Missouri Department of Tourism

Tamara and I have developed a short list of our favorite shops, the ones we always have to stop by if only just to look. There's the Thistle and Clover, with all its British fripperies; the shop full of not just nostalgia crap (like Popeye and Three Stooges) but authentic nutcrackers from Germany and matryoshkas (nesting dolls) from Russia; there's the shop with all the jams and jellies and spices and all. Our favorite, though, at least as far as I know, is Laura's Le Petite. We've found some really fun little trinkets there, and each year go to see if there's another treasure to claim for just a few dollars.

Of course, an hour or two of walking up and down this Missouri-based Camden-town is enough to leave one feeling a might peckish. That's where the title of this post comes from - because no matter what day, time of day or how many we have, waiting for a table at the Trailhead Brewery is a pain. A long, arduous pain.

The food is excellent and the wait staff top notch; it just has the unfortunate association of being one of the two places along Main Street with room to handle our massive party of Lambsons and kin. Most places on a Saturday night don't have a table for 12-15 readily available, so my grudge comes grudgingly.

Photo clearly not taken in winter.

We solved that little problem by going to the opposite end of Main Street to Lewis and Clark, a restaurant owned by the Trailhead folks with one key difference: they take reservations. You can call a few weeks ahead and save your spot, and they'll have something for you when you get there. Last year, we were at two different tables but it worked out okay. This year, they tell us they can get us at one big table. We like them.

So, there you go. A new Lambson tradition but a universally appreciated one, as best as I can tell. You want an old-timey Christmas experience? Carolers in big hats/bonnets? Chesnuts roasting on an open fire? Get ye to St. Charles forthwith.

Don't look at the camera - you're not supposed to know what one is yet.


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