By Forest Riggs

Welcome, the month of December. The elections are over, hurricane season passed with no storms waltzing across the Gulf Coast, the Halloween masks have all come off, our bellies are full from wonderful Thanksgiving meals served with love, and Christmas, be it good or bad, is right around the corner.

The festive month kicks off with the celebration of World AIDS Day. This special day of celebration, recognition and remembrance is the first global health day recognized around the world, started in 1988. Communities all across the planet now recognize this day and honor it with special services and gatherings. The darkness that was once a black veil of loss is now brightly illuminated with tender candlelight in vigils throughout the land. World AIDS Day is significant in that it serves as a time to remember those that have passed with the illness and to recognize and honor those living with the virus or affected by HIV.

The fight is not over, but we are winning the battle. The latest research has brought the development of new medicines that enable those with the virus to not only survive, but to thrive. Globally, there are over 34 million people with the virus and since it was first identified in 19841-dickens-on-the-strand, more than 35-million have died of HIV or AIDS. These huge numbers make this one of the most destructive pandemics in history. World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away; there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

Each year, Access Care of Coastal Texas, Inc. (ACCT) holds a beautiful celebration on World AIDS Day. Founded in 1985 with the purpose of providing compassionate, community based education and services for people living with HIV/AIDS or those affected by the virus, ACCT has been an integral part of the Galveston LGBT community, offering support and assistance to anyone in need.

ACCT Staff member Joe Rios says: “The work that we do is vital to the overall health of the community. We are here for anyone that needs us and our goal is to assist and improve lives—we offer support and hope.”

That, they do!

Once again, ACCT has a full day of celebration planned for December 1. A large panel of the national AIDS quilt will be on display in the lobby of the ACCT offices (707 23rd Street in Galveston) as well as presentations of the new film, The Last One. There will be an open house from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free HIV testing will also be offered during the afternoon and evening. Starting at 5:30 pm, a Galveston city official will read a proclamation declaring December 1, 2016 as World AIDS Day and recognizing the dedication and support that ACCT brings to Galveston Island and the surrounding area. Physicians from UTMB (which provides a tremendous amount of community support and healthcare resources) will speak and share the latest developments and work regarding treatment and advances in the battle against HIV. After the speakers, those in attendance will gather at the Memorial Wall for a candlelight vigil; island musician Dave Thomas will provide soft violin music. The gathering at ACCT is a beautiful and loving way to celebrate World AIDS Day.

December is just crammed full of festive things; visitors and locals don’t have to look too hard to find something to do. Although the weather has not been exactly “holiday” weather, folks are trimming their trees, decorating the halls and walls and stringing lights in the palms. Galveston really comes alive during December with house parties, fundraisers in all the clubs, a community tree-lighting ceremony, the boat parade in the harbor and of course, the beautifully lighted icon, the Galvez Hotel and Spa.

Moody Gardens is fro2-galveston-galvez-holiday-photozen over this year with a zillion lights and magnificent ice sculptures delicately carved by visiting Chinese ice sculptors.

Lastly, no island holiday would be complete without a stroll down a Victorian London lane as it is offered at Dickens on the Strand. This year will mark the 43rd anniversary of the popular island holiday treat and promises to be bigger and better than ever. The weekend of December 2–4 will be filled all the festivities and trimmings of jolly ol’ England as Mr. Dickens presented in his many works of the period.

December is also a month of music, mostly Christmas carols that we all sing and enjoy (I think). Being a lover of all things music, someone recently asked me about December songs. Off the top of my head and delving into my vast cerebral library of tunes, I could not think of a specific song about December. There are quite a few that mention the word in the lyrics, but for a title song, I drew a blank! So here you go:

“I Can See the Sun in Late December” by Stevie Wonder, written for Robert Flack (1975), “December 1963” (Oh, What a Night), by the Four Seasons (1975), “December” by Norah Jones, “A Long December” by Counting Crows, “December” by Basia (2007), “December” on Weezer’s fourth album, “December” by Taylor Swift, “Once Upon a December” from the animated movie Anastasia (the soundtrack won a 1997 Oscar for Best Original Music) and, of course, Tchaikovsky’s “December” from the twelve pieces, The Seasons. There are probably a few more that I missed and I am sure pianist George Winston must have some December song on the fantastic album Winter.

Regardless of what you do or where you do it on Galveston Island, December offers a bucket-load of seasonal activities. Welcome, happy December.

A resident of Galveston where he can be found wasting bait and searching for the meaning of life, Forest Riggs recently completed a collection of short stories about his beloved island and is working on a novel.