Nutcracker Market: Some Things Really Are Bigger in Texas

“Everything is bigger in Texas!”

Some nuts at the 2015 Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market


Or so I was told before I moved here 10 years ago. I thought that was just hyperbolic state pride. I mean, really, not everything is bigger. New York has bigger buildings, Idaho has bigger potatoes, and California has bigger trees. What took me a while to realize is that this statement means Texans MAKE everything bigger.

Mega Market

I say this on the last day of the 35th Annual Houston Ballet’s Nutcracker Market. I know every state and city has its own version of a holiday market, but you would be hard pressed to find anything on the scale of the Nutcracker Market. Just to give you an idea of its size, it is held in the Texan’s NRG Center. Yep, ladies, this is a football-size shopping venue made for professionals, not the casual or faint-of-heart shoppers. The building houses over 300 merchants and attracts more than 100,000 people over a four-day weekend in November.

The primary attractions are holiday items: décor, clothing, sweets, and ornaments. However, you can find almost anything at the Nutcracker Market: jewelry, metal works, tunics, cowboy boots, pewter, pottery, rustic art, soup mixes, homemade candy, lamps, and even festive underwear. At the largest vendor, the Paul Michael Company, I could have purchased an entire dining room set and every thing you could possibly think of to go with it: linens, décor, dishes, candles, chandeliers, placemats, and food products. And, towards the back of the Paul Michael “booth” are warehouse-like displays of Christmas decorations and items to make Christmas crafts. Wreaths, garland, twinkle lights, sparkling mesh, Santa’s sleigh, bells, and a hundred different knick-knacks are stacked shoulder high in boxes and pallets.

Vendors from Across the U.S.

The Nutcracker Market features many local stores and craftsmen, and of course, those from towns all over Texas. Yet, there are vendors from all over the country peddling their wares (e.g., chocolate cherries from Michigan, dips from Kanas City, wine barrel accessories from Colorado, and Mexican vanilla from Utah). In fact, this year 116 vendors came from 33 different states, including Alaska.

When I first moved here, my friends would talk about going to the Nutcracker Market as if this were a mandatory assignment for school. It wasn’t a question of whether or not I would go, but when, how, and with whom. I quickly learned that attending the Nutcracker Market is akin to executing a girl’s weekend in one tightly packed day.

Tailgating, Mimosas, and Reindeer Headbands

Lest you think I exaggerate, my small group of friends and I left our Houston suburb at 8 AM so we could be assured a decent parking place by 9 AM. As we walked through the expansive parking lot, we noticed women tailgating. Yes, tailgating out the back of their SUVs. Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and breakfast tacos. I personally thought the idea was brilliant and quite apropos in the football stadium parking lot. Get there early. Have your breakfast. Put on your makeup, and hit the booths.

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