4 Recipes for a Cozy, Nostalgic Christmas
Christmas Feature

4 Recipes for a Cozy, Nostalgic Christmas

By Amanda McCarty

If there were ever a case to be made for the existence of time travel, I believe the most convincing evidence could be found in the nostalgia of the holiday season. I don’t think anything holds the power to transport us to the past quite like the spirit of December coming on.

For me, it’s the soft, comforting lullaby of Christmas music mingled with the fragrant notes of cinnamon dancing through the air. The ache in my crimson-stained fingertips from threading delicate strands of cranberries and popcorn. The candy glow of multicolored lights.

These mundane-yet-poignant experiences take us back to a time when we held sanguine beliefs in Santa Claus, flying reindeer and the goodness in all people. And while these moments look different for everyone, they all share a common thread: the tradition of gathering with those we cherish most to share these experiences.

As you sink into the comforting embrace of a new Christmas season, it’s important to connect with your own family traditions and rituals — even if that means creating new ones of your own. Because we all need to share the joy of reigniting the childish sense of wonder within us all.

If you’re searching for ways to unlock those cozy feelings of nostalgia and belonging, Choctaw Country offers many opportunities to create new, lasting memories. I pray they continue to fuel the magic of the season for you and your family for many years to come.

1. Book a Cozy Getaway
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all to really connect with the people who matter. Kiamichi Cabins offers a variety of luxury hideaways nestled in the pines of Broken Bow and Hochatown. It’s the perfect place to gather with the family by the warm glow of a fire and watch the rest of the world — and if you’re lucky, the snow — drift quietly by.

2. Create a New Tradition

Kick off the holiday season with a truly unique experience at the Endangered Ark Foundation in Hugo, Oklahoma — a sanctuary for the endangered Asian elephant species. Holiday in the Ark begins Friday, November 25 and includes holiday craft centers, elephant feeding and interactions, holiday-themed lands and plenty of photo ops with Santa and Mrs. Claus, the elves, the Grinch and, of course, the elephants! This special event runs Saturdays and Sundays through December 18, and tickets are on sale now.

3. Catch a Christmas Parade

Round up the kiddos for a Cowboy Christmas like no other at Atoka’s Wild West Christmas Parade. Scoot your boots to live music, chow down on delicious food and tip your hat to Santa at this beloved family event. The festivities begin at 6pm on Saturday, December 3.

Just a few minutes north of the Oklahoma/Texas border, Durant lies close enough for a quick but meaningful trip into Oklahoma with the family to experience the Durant Christmas Parade. Join us downtown in the beautiful “City of Magnolias” on Tuesday, December 6 for “A Very Nutty Christmas” — this year’s theme for the annual holiday celebration. The fun begins at 7pm with a festive procession of floats, candy stations along the parade route and a special appearance by Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

4. Take in the Lights

There’s nothing quite like taking in the magical glow of Christmas lights on a chilly, December night. And the display of lights at Christmas in the Park on the beautiful Choctaw Capitol Grounds in Tuskahoma is one of the best in the area. Join us on Fridays and Saturdays in December from 6pm-9pm for free hot chocolate while you enjoy this enchanting drive-through exhibit.

Lone kayaker

The Current of the Wilderness

By Amanda McCarty

As most in the south know, summers are best spent in the water. Maybe for you that’s spending the day skimming across the lake with a boatful of friends. Maybe it’s lounging by the pool with a good book and a cool drink. But if you’re anything like me, it means paddling your kayak down a river somewhere.

There’s nothing quite like setting off from a grassy bankside and surrendering your fate to wherever the water takes you. You become an explorer of sorts, on an expedition to discover the parts of the world we take for granted. The soft filtering of light through a canopy of trees arching gracefully overhead, the majestic beauty of the looming cliffside, the variegated patterns and swirls in the rock formations gliding by and the way green stains everything with the color of life. You become a captive audience to the menagerie of wildlife surrounding you – a family of ducks swimming past, the kaleidoscope of colors in their oil-slicked feathers, the luminous splash of a silvery fish breaking the water’s surface.

It doesn’t have to be all laid back and dreamy, though. Maybe you crave the thrill of the split-second decisions required to navigate more turbulent waters, maneuvering your way through narrow channels, the rush of being ruthlessly carried over jagged rocks and the pride in coming out the other side as more than just a survivor. If your style is more adrenaline junkie, there are certainly opportunities – often in the same river – requiring a more high-energy performance.

In the end, the adventure is what you make it. And Choctaw Country offers some of the most beautiful places to dive into the unknown and see where the current of the wilderness takes you.

Mountain Fork River | Broken Bow, OK

There’s no shortage of places to rent a kayak for the day in Beavers Bend State Park if you don’t have one of your own, and they’re usually relatively cheap. If you have the option (and you’re not doing anything too crazy), I recommend the sit-on-top kind, because they’re the easiest to get in and out of when you feel the urge to slip in the water to cool off. But you find what works best for you.

Beavers Bend River Floats is a great place to start if you’re just looking to dip your toe into the water, so to speak. After being shuttled to the drop-off point, it’s a peaceful trip downstream back to their shop and only takes about an hour. The best part, though, are the stunning views as Mountain Fork River cuts its way through the Kiamichi Mountains.

If you want to make a day of it, River Rats has options ranging from two and a half to six hours and offers a bit of excitement with Class II rapids and a three-foot waterfall. If you have your own kayak, they’ll even shuttle you to the drop-off point, for a small fee of course.

Kiamichi River | Antlers, OK

Sometimes, you just need a little more space to breathe, where you feel that the river is yours alone. The Kiamichi River delivers with a beautiful stretch of water between Clayton and Antlers that’s perfect for paddling away from the more touristy areas.

K River Campground is the go-to here for kayak and canoe rental, and they’ll shuttle you to wherever you want to put in upriver. There are a few gravel bars dispersed throughout the river if you want to camp out on the water. Or you can just make your way back to the campgrounds at K River, where they offer everything from tent and RV sites to tree houses and cabins.

Lake Eufaula | Eufaula, OK

Of course, it doesn’t have to be a river that you venture into. You can always kayak on the lake; but without the assistance of the river’s current, it’s best to go on a calm day when the water is relatively smooth. There’s nothing so exhausting as fighting choppy waves with nothing but a paddle and your upper body strength.

Lake Eufaula is a great place to set out, with the surrounding hilly landscape offering stunning views. There are also plenty of other activities to explore nearby, including numerous campgrounds and marinas with on-the-water restaurants and bars.