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We all know about "Black Friday" and just why it has received its gloomy moniker: every year, the day after Thanksgiving (when the Christmas season has "officially" begun) sees millions of Americans push and shove their way through department store aisles to stockpile as many gifts as possible before time-sensitive sales have expired. On a day such as this, it seems like the true spirit of Christmas is lost, smothered by stacks and stacks of merchandise, faux pine trees, and giant inflatable reindeer.

Luckily for Louisvillians, Metro Government has concocted the perfect remedy for post-Black Friday blues: Light Up Louisville, a local tradition that embodies all the beauty, joy, and fellowship traditionally associated with this most popular holiday, is on tap once again for 2011. On November 25, as he does every year, Santa Claus will descend on Louisville during his pre-Christmas tour, and will bring with him a host of entertainment, good food, family activities, fireworks, and, of course, lights of all shapes and sizes.

The first event of the day will be a new one to Light Up Louisville regulars. The Light Up 5K Run/Walk is part of Mayor Fischer's Healthy Hometown initiative, which seeks to promote overall health and wellness for Louisville families, and will begin at 3 p.m. At the same time, food booths and the Budweiser Pubs will open and Christmas music will be performed on stage by local choirs, all of which will continue long after the 5K participants reach the finish line.

But at 6 p.m., the real spectacle begins. The Winter Holiday Parade will feature floats decorated with a dazzling array of lights, as well as a variety of local civic organizations, bands, and carolers on foot. At the tail-end of the parade, as always, will ride Santa Claus, fresh from his debut in New York and accompanied by troops of merry elves!

As he does every year, Santa -- along with the help of representatives from the show's sponsors, LG&E and GE -- will join Mayer Fischer in inserting the "magic plug," which powers thousands of lights across downtown Louisville, hanging from buildings, street corners, and the official "Light Up Louisville tree" in Jefferson Square Park. This 45-foot-tall tree was brought all the way from Germany as a seedling by Dorothy Underwood and donated by her daughter and son-in-law, Cathy and Tom Young.

After Louisville has been set aglow, festivities continue, including a photo session with Santa in front of Metro Hall for children eager to inform him of their Christmas wishes. Metro Hall will also be the site of Santa's Workshop, where families and children will have the opportunity to build a free toy and write letters to our troops serving overseas. Members of the US Marine Corps will be stationed here and accepting donations of new toys for Toys for Tots, so make sure to bring one along with you. After all, it is the spirit of giving that truly defines this joyful holiday, as well as the happiness that comes from togetherness, as Light Up Louisville helps remind us every year.

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About Karen Ellestad

When I was seven and my brother was eight, we both wrote to 'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' for a free t-shirt. Two weeks later his arrived in the mail, signed by Carmen Sandiego herself, accompanied by an autographed picture of the cast, an official membership to the 'Gumshoe Club,' and a Rockapella casette tape. I got a postcard.

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