Yesterday I got a reminder that the city of St. Louis is turning on its holiday lights at Kiener Plaza next Friday. Yes, the 19th. Yes, before Thanksgiving. Christmas creep feels even more absurd than usual when the weather is 70 degrees every day! It’s hard to think about gift lists when I’m still harvesting ripe tomatoes and watering the lawn!

But the holiday lights do indeed go on next Friday downtown, and perhaps in your neighborhood as well. My neighborhood is Soulard, and our tree gets lit (and so do a lot of the residents!) on Dec. 4. Actually, I shouldn’t poke fun at an event that goes by the upstanding name of Fete de Noel, but ever since Santa and his Spandex-clad ho-ho-hos made an appearance a couple of years ago, I feel they’ve made themselves fair game.

But I digress — back to the downtown event. It starts at 4:30 p.m. but the actual switch is flipped at 6:26, with the party continuing until 8 over toward Macy’s. There will be fireworks and music … probably no snow, but they’re promising hot chocolate so I hope we at least feel a bit of a nip of cold on our noses!

As my brother was getting ready to depart a couple of days ago, we got to talking about reasons to lure him back here (aside from his nephews, of course).  He’d been talking about coming for Mardi Gras for several years, so we looked up the date in 2008:  Feb. 5!  Brrr…  But he checked out tickets and everything, so I’m betting he’ll be here.  If not for the actual Fat Tuesday parade downtown on the 5th, definitely for the Grand Parade on Feb. 2 in Soulard.  I’ll give more details on that one later — we’ve been there with our kids every year, and this one won’t be an exception.

The kickoff party for Soulard’s Mardi Gras is this Sunday at 7 p.m., when there’s an official proclamation followed by a musical procession to raise the tri-colored flag.  Starting point is the front steps of Johnny’s on Russell; ending point is 7th and Soulard.  You may not want to hang out with the kids at Johnny’s (unless you’re the type who hangsout with the kids at Hooters)  but the procession is a safer bet.   For details on the Twelfth Night event and other festivities throughout January, visit the Web site or call 314.771.5110. Note the other two freebies this month: the Children’s Art Fair on Jan. 20 and the Krewe of Barkus Pet Parade on Jan. 27.

Like many of the Mardi Gras activities, each of those involves a parade.   One of the things I like most about Soulard’s Mardi Gras is that it gets people outside during these rotten, cold months.  Heck, even M.’s school does a procession during the Mardi Gras season: the Teaching Peace Parade.  No one comes out for it (except parents), but the kids are energized nontheless.  Something about banding together and marching around in crazy costumes makes you feel like you can take on the world.