It’s a sure sign of the season.
Every year – on the first night after Thanksgiving – the massive Christmas trees, the festive wreath, and the huge stocking take their place, illuminating the windows of Birmingham’s 30-story Regions Center, headquarters of Regions Bank.
It can be seen for miles … Driving north along I-65 at night? It’s often the first thing you notice once you pass through Red Mountain … Landing at the Birmingham airport? You get a bird’s-eye view showing the west and north sides.
But we wanted to give you an inside view of how it all comes together.
It usually starts a few months before Christmas … Crews begin combing through the offices of the Regions Center, using grids showing them which colors go on which windows to form the designs.
A lot of people think there’s a computer system that controls it all from a central location. Nope. It’s a very manual process.
Before the Regions Center was completed in 1971 (when the building was shared by the First National Bank of Birmingham and a company called Sonat – or Southern Natural Gas), a light tube was placed above every window starting on the fifth floor. The idea was to have the building displaying bright light every evening.
The energy crisis of the 1970s curtailed those plans. But the story goes that in the following years, a Sonat executive saw a building in Houston that had a similar “curtain wall” design and used it to illuminate a Christmas display during the holidays. He brought the idea back to Birmingham, and Regions Bank is proud to continue the display each year.
To create the Christmas tree, wreath and stocking designs, “gel sleeves” are slid over the light tubes in every window that’s part of the display. Testing happens late at night or early in the morning in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to ensure each window on every floor is ready to glow with the right color when the Christmas season begins.
Those of us who work in the building are accustomed to the lights popping on automatically around 4:45 or so each afternoon … We even turn our window blinds in a way that helps the light reflect as brightly as possible to enhance the display.
But why do crews have to manually set up the display each year? Because not too long after the holidays, crews will begin following the same process to set up the golfer image Regions Bank displays in the weeks leading up to the Regions Tradition tournament each spring.
The building has been used for a few other designs over the years … From vantage points across the city, people saw the familiar torch and rings when Birmingham hosted international soccer games as part of the 1996 Atlanta games … There was also an American flag and the letters “USA” during the 1991 Gulf War.
For every display, there’s a lot of work to get it just right. But we’re proud to do it. Because it’s a tradition around here – one we’re honored to carry forward.