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Celebrating 6 of Las Vegas’ weirdest Christmas traditions

Live in Las Vegas long enough and anything can start to seem normal.

Video poker at the grocery. Summer days that hit 117. The fact that, no matter when you take your visiting parents to the Strip, they’ll be swarmed by people trying to hand them those escort service trading cards. So it’s no surprise that, if you really look at them, some of our fair city’s holiday traditions can be a little on the peculiar side.

Christmas (Day) shopping

Want to get a jump on returning that awful Christmas sweater? Can’t wait to burn through your gift cards and holiday cash? You don’t have to wait until Dec. 26 like a sucker, since shopping centers up and down the Strip — not just those sketchy-looking souvenir shops but legit retailers such as the Forum Shops, Miracle Mile Shops and Grand Canal Shoppes — are open regular hours on Christmas Day. As a general rule, if it’s on Las Vegas Boulevard and attached to or inside a casino, it’s most likely open. This was a thing long before Black Friday slowly morphed into Black Thursday Afternoon.

Showy Santa

Santa appears on a model runway with dancers at Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 9 ...
Santa appears on a model runway with dancers at Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 9, 2004. The small production show runs several times daily through the holiday season. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

For more than a decade, it’s been the valley’s most goofily surreal way to ring in the holidays. One minute, you’re braving the crowds at Fashion Show mall, looking for a last-minute gift. The next, the lights go down and there’s a full-fledged production show — complete with high-kicking, Rockettes-style dancers — right in front of the Apple Store. Some years, its Santa Claus will sing Christmas favorites or original songs that name-check many of the mall’s anchor tenants. Others, he’ll just wobble about to prerecorded music like your drunk uncle on New Year’s Eve. This year, though, the runway show is being replaced by something called “Holiday Glow” that promises to be “a multi-show experience featuring glam, couture and high-fashion” as well as “a one-of-a-kind, culturally diverse experience the entire family will enjoy.” See it at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting on Black Friday.

One festive shark

Santa Jaws greets children at the Shark Reef Aquarium. (Shark Reef)
Santa Jaws greets children at the Shark Reef Aquarium. (Shark Reef)

Santa Jaws is back for another year as part of Santa in the Shipwreck at Shark Reef Aquarium at Madalay Bay. Before you get too excited, they don’t put a Santa suit on an actual shark, which would be adorable. It’s just somebody in a shark suit with a Santa cap who’ll pose for photos with Santa Claus and children 12 and younger on weekends starting Dec. 7.

Submersible Santa

Underwater Santa high-fives William Chaidez, 3, at Silverton hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Sun ...
Underwater Santa high-fives William Chaidez, 3, at Silverton hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2018. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae

It’s never too early to give your little ones a look at the crazed, “Waterworld”-esque future they’re almost certain to inherit. Underwater Santa returns to the mermaid aquarium at Silverton with visits scheduled noon-1:15 p.m. and 2-3:15 p.m. on Dec. 7-8, 14-15 and 21-22.

Cap’n Claus

The Titanic attraction’s full-scale re-creation of the ship’s Grand Staircase was a gorgeou ...
The Titanic attraction’s full-scale re-creation of the ship’s Grand Staircase was a gorgeous, if eerily somber, setting for Christmas photos. (Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition)

When you think Santa Claus, do you think about more than 1,500 people, awakened in the middle of the night, flailing about in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic before eventually succumbing to their icy deaths? No? That could be why “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition” at Luxor is no longer hosting its photos with Santa on the attraction’s full-scale re-creation of the ship’s Grand Staircase. But it was glorious while it lasted.

Vegas freezes over

Grace Peuser, 12, figure skates on the floating ice skating rink at the MonteLago Village at La ...
Grace Peuser, 12, figure skates on the floating ice skating rink at the MonteLago Village at Lake Las Vegas Sunday, November 18, 2007. (Review-Journal File)

Long before the Golden Knights were a twinkle in Bill Foley’s eye, Las Vegas couldn’t get enough of ice skating, preferably outdoors, even if the temperatures were in the 70s. The annual pop-up ice rinks at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and Downtown Summerlin are open now. Over the years, we’ve also had them set up at Caesars Palace, The Venetian, Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch Resort. Few things, though, compare to the days when — with people in colder climates forced to wait till a lake froze over to go skating — Lake Las Vegas would just have a public ice rink floating on top of it.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

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