Christmas brings back memories of a longtime Huntsville tradition

Alabama News

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — For years, driving down Horseshoe Trail in Huntsville was like going through a Christmas winter wonderland.

For 25 years, retired orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Higginbotham decorated his home with Christmas lights that became a local tradition to see during the holidays. However, the lights went out after the man affectionately known as “Higg” died in 2019.

The story goes that this all began when he was 9 years old, Higginbotham put two strings of lights on some bushes at his home in Birmingham. His love of Christmas lights began as a child riding with his family around the neighborhood on Christmas Eve.

“I can remember in the backseat of the old Kaiser Frazier pressing my nose to the sweaty window,” Higginbotham told WHNT in an interview back in 2017. “And looking out and saying to myself if I can ever afford to do this for other kids when I grow up, I`m going to do this because this is really fantastic and fun.”

“I live in the Griswold neighborhood,” he said.

He tried to add something new every year and the display just kept growing and growing.

“I have some extremely tolerant neighbors,” Higginbotham said. “In fact, my display extends into my neighbor’s yards on both sides and across the street as well. It’s just grown a little bit each year until it hit some sort of toxic level and it self-ignited.”

Higginbotham was amazed that so many people come back year after year.

“Young couples carrying their children and telling me that their parents brought them here when they were carried in their arms,” he said, “and I think that it has become that much of a tradition is really very humbling to me.”

For a few years, Higginbotham put off decorating the house with Christmas lights.

“Well, I was as disappointed as anybody that I couldn’t do it because it’s kind of a fun outlet, a creative outlet for me,” he said. He developed severe arthritis and had to have should replacement surgery. “I was able to get my arms up after two years,” he said. “So I resumed doing it.”

That childhood promise he made long ago paid off when Higginbotham watched three generations of children standing to look at the holiday train engine he’d built from scratch.

“And as I looked at their eyes, I could see that there were three kids standing there,” he said choking up a little. “And that really got to me.”

Dr. Higginbotham’s family shared his creations with several families that are lighting up the holidays at their homes. They’re making sure his love of Christmas lives on by sharing those Horseshoe Trail memories with visitors. Here’s where you can enjoy them.

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