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Silver Dollar Christmas 

Get to Branson before your good will is totally tapped out

Let's be honest: Christmas is no time for cynicism. We have eleven other months to scoff at Hallmark cards, ignore our faraway families and bemoan our society's utter lack of progressive thinkers. But for one month, it's actually OK to watch the ABC Family channel, and we're free to enjoy the simple, wholesome life we rail against the whole rest of the year.

What better way to embrace our sentimental sides than by attending Silver Dollar City's "An Old Time Christmas" festival? Until December 30 the annual Christmas extravaganza at Silver Dollar City (399 Indian Point Road, Branson; 800-831-4386 or www.silverdollarcity.com) offers something for everyone.

Geeks and the techno-curious can marvel at the five-story Special Effects Christmas Tree -- and wonder how all 250,000 lights twinkle in unison, precisely choreographed to favorite Christmas songs. Also effects-filled is A Dickens' Christmas Carol, the Silver Dollar City original musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. The show is sure to touch the hearts of even the most stubborn Scrooges.

Foodies can partake of a traditional turkey dinner or stuff themselves at the prime-rib buffet. If there's room left over, the hungry can top it all off with gingerbread cookies or Christmas-pudding ice cream. And don't forget to knock back a few hot wassails or cappuccinos to further warm the cockles of your cold, citified heart.

History buffs can visit the re-creation of ancient Bethlehem and enjoy the two-story Living Nativity set -- in the round! The Greatest Story Ever Told has never looked better! Of course, no trip to Silver Dollar City's "An Old Time Christmas" would be complete without just sitting back and enjoying the highly praised and much-loved nightly Holiday Light Parade, with family by your side and warm fuzzies in your heart. The 80,000 lights used on the floats alone are stirring enough to make the greediest of Grinches want to give back those presents.

And don't worry, you can always use the time driving home to mock the very happiness and joy you just felt. We won't tell.

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