Everyone gets immersed in the Christmas holiday season but not everyone celebrates Christmas. Actually, there are many people who opt to not celebrate Christmas for a variety of valid reasons — most commonly because they are of a different religion.
For Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Muslims, Christmas is not a religious holiday.
Fortunately for them, there is a special event in Philadelphia at Christmastime created for people who do not celebrate Christmas.
The long-running annual event is held each year on December 25 at the National Museum of American Jewish History (101 South Independence Mall East, Philadelphia, 215- 923-3811, www.nmajh.org).
For years, the event was known as “Being Jewish at Christmas.” Now, the name of the one-day celebration, which will run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on December 25, is called “Being _ _ _ _ _ _ at Christmas.”
The museum’s website offers the following invitation — “Snowy…Jewish…Happy…Caring…Buddhist…Generous…Family…Creative…Friendly…Sparkly…Fill in your own blank and join us for our annual day of family fun!”
The event will feature music, comedy, children’s activities and refreshments. Alex & the Kaleidoscope will be playing songs guaranteed to get guests dancing and moving. Performance times are 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. There will also be performances by the comedian The Great Holtzie.
There will be a “Drop-in Art Project” from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. where visitors can create their own “Hamsa” with mixed media artist and educator Fran Gallun. The word “hamsa” comes from the word for “five” (as in, five fingers) in both Hebrew and Arabic. It’s a palm-shaped symbol, or charm, popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa and you often see this shape in jewelry and wall-hangings.
Other activities include face painting and balloon art. There will also be “Storytime” sessions at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. and 12:30, 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.
As an added attraction, there will be screenings of short films by The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges. At 4:45 p.m., there will be a special “Hanukkah Candle Lighting.”
Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for children (12 and under).
On Christmas Day, there is often a lull between the early morning hours when presents are exchanged and the late afternoon when a multi-course holiday meal is served.
If you’re looking for something different to do during this time gap, consider taking a trip to Washington Crossing State Park (1112 River Road, Washington Crossing,
215- 493-4076, www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing).
In a tradition that has existed for more than a half-century, the park’s rangers and associates present a program which features a re-enactment of George Washington crossing the Delaware River with his troops.
This year’s 65th annual staging of the free event, which will be held weather permitting, will take place at 1 p.m. at Washington Crossing State Park. Activities will get underway at noon with George Washington delivering an address to his troops.
There will also be presentations of other famous speeches as well as a display by re-enactment groups of what military camp life was like during the era. The focal point of the free event will be when Washington and his men recreate the crossing of the Delaware River in a small group of wooden Durham boats.
River crossings are contingent upon safe conditions for participants. However, even if conditions do not allow for crossing, ceremonies, speeches and commemorative activities still occur.
Valley Forge National Historical Park (Route 23, Valley Forge, https://encampmentstore.org/trolley-tours/) is presenting special Holiday Trolley Tours from December 27-30. Park guides will offer three tours each day — 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 1-2:30 p.m. and 3-4:30 p.m.
The 90-minute guided tours, which feature a ride in a comfortable, old-fashioned Trolley, depart from the front of the Visitor Center and travel throughout the Park. Each excursion features extended stops at Muhlenberg’s Brigade and Washington’s Headquarters.
Valley Forge National Historical Park is nationally significant as the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington. It was here that the Continental Army under Washington’s leadership emerged as a cohesive and disciplined fighting force.
The tours, which are both fun and educational, give visitors the opportunity to observe many of the park’s most significant historical sites. Tickets are $17.50 for adults, $14.50 for students, seniors (62 and over) and active military and $9 for children (11 and under).
At the end of each year, the Delaware Museum of Natural History (4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-658-9111, www.delmnh.org) presents a special event geared for families for the week between Christmas and New Year.
From December 27-30, the children-oriented museum in northern Delaware will be presenting its “Discovery Days.” The event, which is scheduled to run from 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. each day, features four days of festive family fun, including hands-on nature and science activities, live animals, face painting, and special activities.
Participants will be able to meet owls, sun conures, and other amazing birds up close with Phung Luu, from Animal Behavior and Conservation Connections and also explore Princess Science with scientist Miss Diamond State Victoria Muir.
On December 29, 10 a.m.-noon, youngsters can meet Princess Aurora. Then, on December 30 from 10 a.m.-noon, visitors to the museum will be able to meet Mulan.
The four-day event will wrap up on Saturday with an early New Year’s Eve celebration featuring the Chinese American Community Center. The festivities will end with an early New Year’s celebration at 3:30 p.m. featuring music, a snowball drop and countdown to 2018.
Discovery Days is a special event with specific admission prices during the four days — $12 for adults, seniors and children and free for children two and under.
An interesting and educational special event will be presented at the Ephrata Cloister (632 West Main Street, Ephrata, 717-733-6600, www.ephratacloister.org) from December 27-30 – the 2017 edition of the Cloister’s annual “Lantern Tours.”
The Ephrata Cloister or Ephrata Community was a religious community, established in 1732 by Johann Conrad Beissel at Ephrata. The grounds of the community are now administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
The tours take guests back in time to visit the Cloister as it may have appeared in the 1700s. Each year’s story offers a cast of junior and senior high school students playing the roles that bring history to life. A different story is presented each year.
This year’s tours will lead visitors through four of the historic buildings on site as the story unfolds to offer differing views of Conrad Beissel. Refreshments and a chance for conversation will end the evening. Each of the one-hour tours is limited in attendance, and begins each half-hour starting at 6:30 p.m.
Reservations are required and can be made by calling (717) 733-6600. Tours will depart the visitor center every 30 minutes from 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors (65 and older) and youth (ages 6-11) and $5 for children (ages 3-5).
Rock Ford Plantation (881 Rockford Road, Lancaster, 717-392-7223, www.rockfordplantation.org), which was the home of plantation owner Edward Hand, presents its Yuletide Candlelight Tours during the days following Christmas. This year’s events will be staged from December 26-28.
Yuletide was celebrated in the late 1700s during the 12-day period between Christmas (December 25, the day Christ was born) and Twelfth Night/the Feast of the Magi (January 6, the day the Magi offered their gifts to the infant Christ).
Back then, Christmas Day did not mark the culmination of the holiday but rather its beginning with a variety of old English traditions — decorating the home with greens, baking a Twelfth Night cake, enjoying the wassail bowl and burning the Yule log.
This year, candlelight tours will be held on December 26, 27 and 28 from 4-8 p.m. each night. There will also be a special Yuletide Daylight Tour on December 29 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
For the candlelight tours, the Georgian-style mansion will be decorated with holiday greenery and illuminated by the glow of lighted candles.
During the evening tours, visitors will be able to listen to live performances of period music and watch early American dancing in the great hall. Authentic 18th-century music of the season will be performed during the candlelight tours.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors (65 and older) and children (ages 6-12).
The festive holiday display at Longwood Gardens, which opened on Thanksgiving Day and is continuing through January 7, features spectacular lights, lavish decorations, holiday music and colorful displays featuring thousands of brilliant poinsettias, brightly-decorated trees and fragrant flowers — all inside the heated Conservatory.
The colorful annual event, which appeals to the entire family, also has a lot of outdoor attractions such as fountain shows and nighttime light displays. Longwood’s Christmas celebration also includes a wide array of seasonal music — holiday concerts, organ sing-alongs and carillon performances.
The organ sing-alongs will be featured in the Ballroom either three or six times a day. There will also be performances by choirs and musicians almost every evening throughout December.
When darkness arrives at Longwood, a night-blooming garden of more than a half-million lights strung on close to 100 trees with approximately 40 miles of wire comes to life. A carillon with 62 cast bells plays holiday music every half hour during daylight hours. Longwood’s Open Air Theatre fountains dance to holiday music each half hour — temperature permitting.
As always, admission by “Timed Ticket” — tickets issued for specific dates and times. Timed ticketing limits the number of people in the Gardens at any given time and allows guests to enjoy minimal lines and a better viewing experience. There are different prices for “Peak” and “Off Peak” times.
Visitors to “A Longwood Gardens Christmas” can also check out Longwood’s Garden Railway — a whimsical display set into motion with G-scale model trains. This is the 16th year that the railway has delighted visitors with special water features and custom trains traveling in and out of bridges and tunnels.
Admission to Longwood Gardens is $23 (non-peak), $30 (peak) for adults, $20/$27 for seniors (ages 62 and older) and $12/$16 for students (ages 5-18).
The annual holiday light show is in full swing at Herr’s Snack Food Factory (20 Herr Drive, Nottingham, 610-932-9330, www.herrs.com) with crowds arriving nightly to check it out.
Herr’s annual “Holiday Light Display” is running now through January 1. The special light exhibit will be open daily from dusk to dawn.
“A Brandywine Christmas”, which runs now through January 7 at the Brandywine River Museum (Route 1, Chadds Ford 610-388-2700, www.brandywinemuseum.org), is an annual event that is fun for the entire family.
The museum’s ever-popular “critter” ornaments will be used to decorate holiday trees, wreaths and diorama settings throughout the museum. The intricately designed ornaments are made from all-natural materials by museum volunteers and have found homes on trees at the White House and the Smithsonian Institution.
“A Brandywine Christmas” also features an extensive O-gauge model. Five moving trains operate at all times and include a 60-car freight train winding past a village, stone quarry, oil refinery, mountains, Herr Foods plant, running waterfall and animated skating scene.
As always, the museum will host “Carols Concerts” throughout December.
Admission is $18 for adults, $15 for seniors (65 and older) and $6 for children.
“Holidays at Hagley” is an event that is always one of the most eagerly anticipated holiday attractions in this area every year. The popular Brandywine Valley exhibit, which is included with regular admission, is running now through January 1 at Hagley Museum and Library (Route 141, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-658-2400, www.hagley.org).
This year’s edition of “Holidays at Hagley” features tours of Eleutherian Mills, which is the first du Pont family home built in America. The tours, which will be presented each day from 10a.m.-4:30 p.m., feature decorations in a combination of styles from both the 19th and 20th centuries.
During the Victorian years when candle-lit tabletop Christmas trees were the norm, hand-made gifts were attached to tree branches, and winter scenes were displayed underneath the tree. The upstairs Victorian Library shows how magical that looked with its mid- to late-nineteenth-century toys, games and dolls. The upstairs Parlor features a case filled with small ceramic animals well-loved by some of the du Pont family children.
Early du Pont family French holiday traditions are remembered with a display of gifts that were given to E. I. du Pont’s children on New Year’s Day as well as the Twelfth Night party illustrated by the ornate French dessert service in the Dining Room.
Well-loved displays returning include the elaborate Twelfth Night celebration in the dining room and the Victorian library’s Christmas for children with its table-top tree surrounded by toys and games. Of course, there will be warm glowing lights and poinsettias.
Admission is $14 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $5 for children (ages 6-14).
One of the best holiday events in the area is the annual “Yuletide at Winterthur.” This year’s 39th annual staging of the event, which runs now through January 7 at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library (Route 52, Wilmington, Delaware,800-448-3883, www.winterthur.org).
Revel in the beauty and warmth of the holidays as Winterthur explores treasures of Christmases past with displays of holiday traditions from the 1800s to the early 20th century, including displays of: the earliest types of colorful lights decorating house exteriors; a full-room scene of Clement Moore’s Christmas classic “A Visit from St. Nicholas;” the du Pont family holiday celebrations; and the evolution of Christmas trees over the decades from the 1880s to 1960s.
In celebration of the exhibit “Royal Splendor: The Coronation Gown from The Crown,” which showcases the magnificent coronation gown worn on the popular Netflix series “The Crown,” the Yuletide Tour will re-create trees enjoyed by Queen Victoria’s family at Windsor Castle, inspired by a painting depicting the queen’s celebration in 1851.
One of visitors’ favorites every year is the 18-room dollhouse mansion created by designer and philanthropist Nancy McDaniel over a period of 30 years. It features amazing intricate details in each room and is even decorated for the holidays! A tree decorated with 458 needlework ornaments, all crafted by Nancy McDaniel will also be on display.
In addition, two of Winterthur’s own iconic rooms designed by H. F. du Pont will be on display in miniature form—the Cecil Bedroom and the Queen Anne Dining Room. These rooms were created by the renowned miniature artists Eugene J. Kupjack.
As always, the rooms will be enhanced with the floral displays so essential to du Pont’s decorating, and with special Christmas trees inspired by the beauty of the Winterthur garden – including the popular Dried Flower Tree in the Conservatory.
Special family activities include “Brunch with Santa” (December 16, 17 and 23) and “Yuletide Jazz & Wine Concert” (December 20),
Timed Yuletide Tour reservations are required. Admission to Yuletide at Winterthur is $22 for adults, $20 for seniors (age 62 and older) and $5 for children (ages 2-11).
Nemours Mansion & Gardens (Route 141 South, Alapocas Drive, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-651-6912, www.nemoursmansion.org) is welcoming visitors for the Christmas holidays with special holiday-themed tours. The three-hour tours are held Tuesdays through Sundays and run now through January 3.
Originally constructed in 1910, Nemours Mansion is one of Delaware’s grandest buildings and includes the largest formal French garden in North America.
During the holiday period, the guided tours will include several stories of the house and part of the gardens. Many of the rooms featured in the tour will be decorated as they would have been when DuPont resided there in the early 1900s while some will retain their traditional period decorations.
Tickets for the tour at Nemours are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and $7 for children (under 16).
The Historic Odessa Foundation’s 2017 Christmas Holiday Tour is an event with an appeal that spans generations. The tours will be presented now through December 31 in Odessa’s historic district (Main Street, Odessa, Delaware, 302-378-4119, www.historicodessa.org).
This holiday season the Historic Odessa Foundation (HOF) is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Historic Houses of Odessa’s annual Christmas Holiday Tours and Exhibits inspired by works of classic children’s literature.
To commemorate three decades of recreating scenes from classic literature through interpretive vignettes and displays, Historic Odessa will recreate its very first 1987 exhibit “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” also known as “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” It will open on November 14 and run through New3 Year’s Eve day in the National Historic Register Wilson-Warner House (c. 1769).
This iconic Christmas poem, attributed to Clement Clark Moore and first published anonymously in 1822, will once again be presented through historically-detailed holiday vignettes throughout the 248-year old National Historic Register Wilson-Warner House. Guests will be invited to recite the classic poem as they tour the displays.
Another popular attraction is the “Storybook Trees Exhibit,” which is a festive display of Christmas trees that reflect books and works of children’s literature. The trees have been decorated by local families, schools and organizations
All of the Historic Odessa Foundation’s museum properties, collectively known as the Historic Houses of Odessa, are open and on display for the 2017 holiday season.
The Historic Houses of Odessa are open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The last full tour of the Historic Houses starts at 3 p.m. The Houses will be closed on December 24 and 25. Admission to the Historic Odessa Foundation holiday tour is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and students and free for children (under 6).
An “outdoorsy” way to celebrate the holidays is to go on a “Holiday Hayride” at Arasapha Farm (1835 Middletown Road, Gradyville, 610-459-2944,www.holidayhayride.com).
Guests will ride on sound-equipped hay wagons through a six-acre holiday wonderland featuring huge light displays, decorated trees and buildings, a variety of Christmas scenes, live reindeer and a beautifully animated Santa’s workshop. The hayride last about 20 minutes and is choreographed with all the favorite songs of the season.
After the wagon ride, guests are encouraged to gather around the bonfire to enjoy hot beverages. There also will be opportunities to have pictures taken with Santa and check out the live nativity scene that features real animals and actors. And, kids can take a ride on the Arasapha Express — a kiddie train ride through light displays and tunnels.
Arasapha Farm is featuring its “Holiday Hayride” on December 8-10 and 15-23 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. each night — weather permitting. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $10 for children (ages 2-8). Train ride tickets are $5. Pictures with Santa are $15.
“Christmas Around The Farm” converts a summertime destination for home-grown produce into a sparkling winter wonderland. The popular annual event at Linvilla Orchards (137 West Knowlton Road, Media, 610-876-7116, www.linvilla.com) is running now through December 23.
Visitors will be able to cut their own Christmas trees, or, if not so inspired, purchase them at the shop — which also features other decorations, including holiday wreaths. Christmasland features freshly-cut trees, greens and holly, poinsettias, hand-made wreaths and a large variety of children’s toys and collectables.
Santa and his elves will be stopping by every Saturday and Sunday to visit his friends in Christmasland from 1-3 p.m. And, there will be caroling Hayrides Saturday evenings in December that include the ancient tradition of Wassailing, singing Christmas Carols around a campfire and roasting marshmallows.
Just north of Chester County, several of Montgomery County’s scenic historic sites are already celebrating the 2017 Christmas holiday season.
Pennypacker Mills (3 Haldeman Road, Perkiomenville, 610- 287-9349, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) is hosting “Victorian Holiday Tours” now through January 7 while “Twelfth Night Tours at Pottsgrove Manor” (100 West King Street, Pottstown, 610-326-4014, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) is also running now through January 7.
For the next six weeks, Pennypacker Mills will offer free tours of the 18-century mansion used by General George Washington as temporary headquarters during the Revolutionary War. The home will be decorated for an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas and will feature the warm glow of oil lamps, festive decorations and a candy-making demonstration.
The event at Pottsgrove Manor features guided tours through an elegant 18th-century Georgian mansion that is decked out in period holiday decorations. Tour guides will discuss Twelfth Night celebrations and Christmastide traditions.
Visitors will be able to view the parlor and kitchen as it would have been during colonial times when the Potts family prepared for their holiday guests. They will also be able to check out the servants’ quarters and see the rustic holiday celebrations as enjoyed by the household staff.
Suggested donations for these events is $2.
Visitors to Peddler’s Village (Routes 202 and 263, Lahaska, 215-794-4000, http://peddlersvillage.com) can get in the holiday spirit at the Village-wide Grand Illumination Celebration. Village shops will be open until 9 p.m. with a distinctive assortment of merchandise, special promotions and refreshments.
The Grand Illumination Celebration showcases thousands of tiny white lights outlining the Village’s buildings, colorful lights with less-than-common colors (teal, peach, and fuscia) adorning the trees and shrubs and a landscaped backdrop featuring a group of reindeer glowing in white light.
By evening, one million twinkling lights will transform the Village into a winter wonderland. The Village is beautifully decorated, Victorian-style, with fruit wreaths and greenery, and there’s lots of live entertainment. Shops are open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. on Sunday.
Another holiday attraction at Peddler’s Village is the family-oriented Giggleberry Fair. The fair, which is a kid favorite, will be open through December 23.
November 20 was the start of Peddler’s Village “Gingerbread House Competition and Display.” Slated to run through January 2, the “Gingerbread House Competition” features over $2,000 in cash prizes in such categories as Traditional and Authentic Reproduction of a Significant Building.
When the Christmas season arrives in Europe, it is common to see Christmas villages erected in downtown locations of big cities. These villages are temporary sites that feature live music, a variety of holiday attractions and a large number of specialized vendors.
When December draws to a close each year, the Kimmel Center (300 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, 215-893-1999, www.kimmelcenter.org) celebrates the holidays with its “Free at the Kimmel Series.”
On December 22 at 7:30 in the Perelman Theater, it will be time for “ShowStoppers,” the Kimmel Center’s free after-school musical theater education program focusing on theater arts, voice, and dance.
Another “Free at the Kimmel” holiday shows will be “New Year’s Day Celebration!” on January 1 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
While the Mummers are strutting down Broad Street, visitors can take a break and ring in the New Year at the Kimmel Center. The event features great parade views, free performances and kids’ activities, sneak peeks of Verizon Hall and Perelman Theater and making marks on the Kimmel Center’s “Resolution Wall.”
Free stage performances will be presented by The Jolly Tars, Steve Pullara & His Cool Beans Band, the UDEF Tourbreakers, Korey Riker, Give & Take Jugglers, Arturo Stable Duet and the Broadway Dreams Foundation.
Other free events on New Year’s Day will be “PNC Grow Up Great” at 11 a.m. and Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ demonstration at 1 p.m.
“Grow Up Great” introduces kids to the vibrant world of musical theater where singing, acting, and dancing join forces to tell a story. Exciting guest artists will perform songs from the canon of great American musicals.
Kids will be able to sing along to recognizable classics and go home singing some brand-new tunes. This lighthearted program encourages kids and parents to explore their creativity as singing snowflakes, ducklings, shooting stars, and everything in between.
The Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ demonstration will start with a 15-minute organ demonstration of the instrument’s unparalleled and dramatic sounds live in Verizon Hall. Then, talented volunteers will show visitors around.
From December 20-25, Philadelphia’s landmark Boathouse Row (1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, www.phila.gov/parksand recreation) will be brightly illuminated with holiday lights.
The row of clubhouses along the Schuylkill River will feature five-minute light shows at the top of every hour after 6 p.m.
The best vantage points to catch the show include the Fairmount Water Works, the Spring Garden Street Bridge, and the Fish Ladder on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Admission to the popular annual event is free.
A great way to get in the spirit of the holidays is to check out the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, which is running now Through January 1 in the lobby of the Comcast Center (1701 John F Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia).
At the top of the hour from 10 a.m.-8 p.m., visitors gather in front of the Comcast Experience video wall to catch the magic of The Comcast Holiday Spectacular, which is one of the world’s largest highest-resolution LED displays. Measuring 83.3 feet wide by 25.4 feet high, the 2,100 square-foot video wall is five times the resolution of high-definition television and one of the world’s highest-resolution LED screens.
The Comcast Holiday Spectacular is filled with sights and sounds of the season. Since its debut in 2008, more than 1.6 million people have experienced the holiday show in the Comcast Center lobby – a show that has become an annual holiday tradition.
The 15-minute Comcast Holiday Spectacular takes visitors on a festive, musical journey featuring classic favorites like “Carol of the Bells,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The show also features sing-alongs, a magical sleigh ride from the Philadelphia countryside to high above the city skyline, and a short video of “The Nutcracker” performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet.
Another top-flight holiday attraction in Center City Philadelphia is Macy’s Christmas Light Show at Macy’s Center City (1300 Market Street, Philadelphia, 215-241-9000,https://www.visitmacysusa.com/philadelphia
With more than 157,000 square feet of the latest fashion and home décor trends and nearly 100 years of retailing history, Macy’s Center City in the landmark Wanamaker building is a must-see destination.
The Macy’s Christmas Light Show has been a Philadelphia tradition since 1956.
During the light show, more than 100,000 energy-efficient LED lights combine to create fantastic holiday images. For shows starting at noon, the finale of the light show is accompanied live by festive music from the world-renowned Wanamaker Grand Organ.
Now through December 31, Macy’s Center City also features another classic Philly tradition — Dickens Village.
The 6,000-square-foot Village on the third floor of Macy’s Center City brings Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” to life with more than 100 fully animated figures reenacting 26 of the story’s most memorable moments. The Village is open daily, excluding Christmas.
Philadelphia is keeping pace with the European cities with a Christmas village of its own — a special site that will be open until December 24.
“Christmas Village in Philadelphia” (Love Park, 1400 JFJ Boulevard, Philadelphia, 215-391-3017, www.philachristmas.com) is a free outdoor holiday market event that captures the vibe of the traditional European Christmas markets.
Christmas Village in Philadelphia is modeled after traditional German Christmas Markets. The history of Christmas markets in Germany dates to the late Middle Ages. One of the oldest and most famous ones is held each year in Nuremberg in the state of Bavaria.
It has been passed down from generation-to-generation ever since the area’s farmers started selling their crops in a farmers’ market during the Advent time in the mid-16th century. The goods presented in wooden booths include a rich variety of holiday gifts including Christmas ornaments, arts and crafts, toys, sweets, as well as German food and drinks. People stroll around, meet friends, and enjoy live performances of Christmas music.
At the Village in Philadelphia, vendors selling traditional European food, sweets and drinks are set up in 80 wooden booths and timber houses that form a medieval village. They will also offer a unique shopping experience with international holiday gifts, ornaments, jewelry and high-quality arts and crafts.
The Village will feature the sights and sounds of the holidays with thousands of twinkling lights, giant glowing stars, festive decorations, a musical stage and children’s activities. All the event’s annual fan favorites will be back, including Photos with Santa, Käthe Wohlfahrt, Herrnhuter Stars, the German Grill and the event’s main stage.
At the center of the market, an ornate and grand old-time carousel will be operating to give children of all ages a new holiday tradition while visiting the authentic German Christmas Market. The carousel features 20 wood-carved horses that will twirl around for an unforgettable view of the new market inside City Hall’s courtyard.
A popular holiday attraction is America’s Garden Capital Maze at Dilworth Park (1 South 15th Street, Philadelphia, http://ccdparks.org/dilworth-park), a holiday-inspired Garden that was created in partnership with Greater Philadelphia Gardens and is part of the Center City Parks District.
Located on the Greenfield Lawn, the maze features vibrant plantings, topiaries, twinkling lights, and décor that showcases all of the public gardens, arboreta, and historic landscapes that are located within 30 miles of Philadelphia. A “Welcoming gazebo” will be at the center of the maze.
The Wintergarden and Maze is billed as “a way to celebrate in William Penn’s original center square and the 32 regional gardens and arboreta that make this region America’s Garden Capital.”
Dilworth Park Wintergarden participants are Shofuso Japanese House & Garden, Stoneleigh: A Natural Garden, The Barton Arboretum & Nature Preserve of Medford Leas, The Gardens at Mill Fleurs, The Highlands Mansion & Garden, The Philadelphia Zoo, The Woodlands, Tyler Arboretum, Tyler Formal Gardens at Bucks County Community College, Welkinweir, Winterthur, and Wyck.
The roster also includes Ambler Arboretum, Arboretum at the Barnes Foundation, Awbury Arboretum, Bartram’s Garden, Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, Brandywine River Museum of Art, Camden Children’s Garden, Chanticleer, Hagley Museum and Library, Haverford College Arboretum, Henry Botanic Garden, Henry Schmieder Arboretum, Hortulus Farm Garden & Nursery, Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens, Longwood Gardens, Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, Mount Cuba Center, Nemours Estate, PHS Meadowbrook Farm, and Scott Arboretum of Swarthmore College.
America’s Garden Capital Maze will be open now through February 25 – 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Fridays and Saturday; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday.
Another attraction is the Center City Parks District’s Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park along with the Rothman Institute Cabin.
The Rothman Institute Ice Rink at Dilworth Park is an unparalleled entertainment experience on Philadelphia’s center stage in a wonderfully urban and unique setting. Open seven days a week, the rink offers wintry fun for all ages, with a full slate of programs.
The 2017 Franklin Square Holiday Festival (200 North Sixth Street, Philadelphia, http://www.historicphiladelphia.org/franklin-square/holidays-in-franklin-square/) opened its season a few weeks ago and will run until December 31.
The Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show will be open from 4-8 p.m. daily and 4-9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Visitors are invited to experience the magic of the holidays and celebrate traditions new and old at the Franklin Square Holiday Festival.
Inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s electrifying genius, the free Electrical Spectacle Holiday Light Show presented by PECO is the key to holiday fun in Franklin Square.
Attendees can marvel at more than 50,000 lights as they shimmer, dance, and illuminate the Square to a soundtrack of holiday classics, some of which are performed by The Philly POPS in two alternating shows every 30 minutes. Every evening, one lucky audience member will be selected to “ignite’ the 4:30 p.m. show.
Additionally, visitors can enjoy comfort foods, seasonal snacks, and hot beverages at Ben’s Sweets & Treats and SquareBurger, festive beers and cocktails presented by Cooperage at the Winter Beer Garden, special holiday events on #FranklinSquareFridays, Santa Saturdays, and Seasonal Sounds on Sundays.
It’s a sure sign that winter has arrived when season opens for the Blue Cross RiverRink (Delaware Avenue at Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-925-RINK,www.riverrink.com).
Unlike most of the suburban ice rinks, RiverRink features public skating. Ice skating is the only use of the ice. This winter, RiverRink takes the ice skating experience on the Delaware River waterfront to another level by once again transforming the annual rink into a bona fide winter wonderland.
Open seven days a week, the Blue Cross RiverRink Winterfest is an immersive winter-themed experience with a popular bar and restaurant called The Lodge, winter beer garden-style landscaping, a brand-new light show, and a retail shopping experience from Art Star Gallery & Boutique.
The outdoor rink’s hours are 1-10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 1 p.m.-12:30 a.m. on Fridays, 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. on Sundays. Skating admission prices are $13 and include skate rental.
The Lehigh Valley Zoo (5150 Game Preserve Road, Schnecksville, www.lvzoo.org) is presenting its fourth season of “Winter Light Spectacular” now through December 31 — Wednesday through Sunday nights
Last season, the popular nighttime fundraiser for the Zoo attracted over 52,000 guests across 35 event nights. This season’s Winter Light Spectacular will feature a variety of event nights but will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
This year’s “Winter Light Spectacular” features more than one million energy conserving lights. The event will run each night from 5:30-10 p.m.
Admission is $11 for adults and $6 for children on Wednesday and Thursday and $14 for adults and $9 for children on Fridays and Saturdays.
Santa’s main ride is a sleigh pulled by reindeer but he also makes visits using a variety of modes such as helicopters, surfboards, horse-drawn carriages, fire trucks, parachutes, open-air convertibles, speed boats, hot air balloons and trains – especially trains.
There is something special about riding on a train that is being pulled by a steam locomotive. Almost everyone enjoys the experience — even Santa Claus. This year, Santa will be visiting several of the area’s tourist railroads to take special rides with his friends.
One of the best train rides with Santa Claus is the one presented by the West Chester Railroad (Market Street Station, West Chester, 610-430-2233 or www.westchesterrr.net).
The special “Santa’s Express” trains (which feature heated cars decorated for the holidays) will run on December 23 at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.
The 90-minute journey on the trail line’s heated decorated train travels through the Chester Creek Valley. Santa Claus will be greeting everyone at Market Street Station and then going along for the ride to Glen Mills. Once at Glen Mills, passengers can disembark, explore the historic station and take advantage of photo opportunities on Santa’s lap inside the station. Live music will be provided by Greg Wright.
Adult fare for the West Chester Railroad trips is $24. Tickets for children (ages 2-12) are $17 while toddlers (ages 9-23 months) get to ride for $7.
The Wilmington & Western Railroad (2201 Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-998-193, www.wwrr.com) will run its “Santa Claus Express” on Saturdays and Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be riding along with passengers on the steam-powered 90-minute round trip to Ashland Station. They will be greeting everyone on board and offering chocolate treats to the youngsters. Santa will also be posing for pictures with his fans.
Steam locomotion will return to the Wilmington & Western for its annual Santa Claus Express. The rail line’s 0-6-0 switcher No. 58 has returned to service after a multi-year restoration and will power Santa’s train through the Red Clay Valley this season.
Tickets for these trains, which run now through December 24, are $19 for adults, $18 for senior citizens and $17 for children.
The tourist rail line will also be running special “Holiday Night Express Trains,” featuring a peaceful evening ride in the railroad’s 1929 Doodlebug rail car. Tickets for these trains, which are running now through December 30, are $13 for adults, $12 for senior citizens and $11 for children.
The Strasburg Rail Road (Route 741, Strasburg, 717-687-7522, www.strasburgrailroad.com) is running its “Night Before Christmas” train on December 22.
This very special train recreates the excitement and anticipation of Christmas Eve. A reader dressed in a Victorian nightshirt and cap will read Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem “The Night Before Christmas” as the train rolls along. After the poem is read, passengers can enjoy a treat of milk and cookies.
Children are also treated to storybook readings of holiday classics aboard the stationary heated caboose and visitors of all ages can enjoy a ride aboard the Tinsel Trolley, a self-propelled motor car. In the spirit of the season, kids may come dressed in pajamas.
Tickets for rides on the Strasburg Railroad are $19 for adults, $13 for children (ages 3-11) and $4 for toddlers (under age 3).
The New Hope & Ivyland Railroad (32 Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-2332, www.newhoperailroad.com) is operating its “North Pole Express” now through December 31. Tickets are $49.95 for adults, $39.95 for children (ages 2-11) and $12.95 for toddlers.
Passengers can ride the rails with Santa, Mrs. Claus and a group of holiday revelers. Children and adults of all ages can sip hot cocoa and enjoy cookies while Santa visits with each child and presents them with a special gift. Local musicians will be on board to play and sing Christmas carols. Additionally, children are encouraged to come dressed in the pajamas.
The Allentown and Auburn Railroad (35 Railroad Street, Kutztown, 570-778-7531, http://allentownandauburnrr.com) is running special “Santa Claus Train Rides” now through December 23.
Guests will be able to visit with Santa during the scenic train ride and have some pictures done.
The train will make a brie stop at the railroad’s picnic grove where riders will have the option to purchase “holiday evergreens with a sprinkle of Christmas magic.” When they get back to the Kutztown Train Station, visitors can also do some holiday shopping in the Allentown & Auburn Gift Shop, which features handmade and antique items.
Trains depart at 10 a.m., noon and 2 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and $9 for children.
The Colebrookdale Railroad (Washington and Third Streets, Boyertown, www.colebrookdalerailroad.com) has several options for holiday-related excursion rides.
The “Santa Claus Polar Express Train,” the “’Twas The Night Before Christmas Train” and the “Winter Starlight Express Train.”
It is approximately a two-hour round trip for any of the train excursions. Tickets are $50 for adults, $45 for children (ages 2-12), $40 for seniors (65 and older) and $6 for toddlers (under 2; must be held; no seat).
The Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad (136 Brown Street, Middletown, 717-944-4435, www.mhrailroad.com) will be running its “Santa Surprise Trains” on December 23 and its “Polar Bear Express” on December 22 and 23.
Santa Claus will have a special present for all kid riders. Fares for the ride are $17 (ages 12 and older), $13 (ages 2-11) and $4 (under age 2 and on lap).
Christmas trains also come in a smaller variety. Model railroad displays and the Christmas holiday season have been linked together since a time before even your parents were even kids.
“Nostalgic Christmas in Hamburg” will be held December 23, 24, 30 and 31 at the Reading Railroad Heritage Museum (500 South Third Street, Hamburg, www.readingrailroad.org).
An always popular holiday attraction in the central Pennsylvania town, the “Nostalgic Christmas Train Display” features vintage and modern Lionel and standard gauge trains operating in a holiday setting.
Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for children (ages 5-12).
One of the most elaborate model train layouts in the Delaware Valley can be found at the Morris Arboretum (100 Northwestern Avenue, Chestnut Hill, 215-247-5777,www.business-services.upenn.edu/arboretum/index.html). The popular Garden Railway Display that has become a summer fixture at The Gardens at Morris Arboretum returns again for a special holiday display.
The display, which is open to the public now through December 31 in the winter garden of the Morris Arboretum, has a quarter-mile of track featuring seven loops and tunnels with 15 different rail lines and two cable cars, nine bridges (including a trestle bridge you can walk under) and bustling model trains.
The buildings and the display are all made of natural materials — bark, leaves, twigs, hollow logs, mosses, acorns, dried flowers, seeds and stones — to form a perfectly proportioned miniature landscape complete with miniature rivers. Philadelphia-area landmarks are all meticulously decorated for the holidays with lights that twinkle.
Admission to the Morris Arboretum is $17 for adults, $15 for seniors (65 and older) and $9 for students and military.
Founded more than 50 years ago, Choo Choo Barn — Traintown U.S.A. (Route 741 East, 226 Gap Rd, Strasburg, 717-687-7911, www.choochoobarn.com) presents a 1,700-square-foot train layout featuring over 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles and 22 operating trains. The majority of trains that are running in the display are “O Gauge” trains but there are also some HO Gauge trains as well as one N Gauge train.
Several of the original pieces and animations are still on the display today, including the ski slope, ski lodge and ice skaters, Dutch Haven, the Willows, the two-lane moving highway (in front of Dutch Haven), the farm with the tobacco barn, the Strasburg Fire House, the church beside Dutch Haven and a few other houses.
The layout features a special Christmas display now through January 16. The homes and businesses along the tracks have been decked out with holiday trim. And, there are 55 hidden Santas — one for each year the site has been open — located around the display for visitors to find.
Tickets are $7.50 for adults and $4.50 for children Ages 3 and under) at Choo Choo Barn — Traintown U.S.A.
If you want to really get in full-scale Christmas mood, visit Koziar’s Christmas Village (782 Christmas Village Road, Bernville, 610-488-1110,www.koziarschristmasvillage.com) which began its 70th season on November 4.
The Glencairn Museum (1001 Cathedral Road, Bryn Athyn, 267-502-2600, www.glenca“irnmuseum.org) is a Bucks County museum featuring religious art and area history museum.
The museum, which was formerly the home of the fabled Pitcairn family, is presenting its “Christmas at Glencairn” holiday celebration now through January 7.
Glencairn was built almost a century ago for the family of Raymond and Mildred Pitcairn, members of a congregation of a Christian denomination known as the New Church. Bryn Athyn was founded in the late 19th century as a New Church religious community.
“Christmas at Glencairn” features special exhibitions, a “Christmas in the Castle” tour, a Christmas concert and other holiday activities. The “World Nativities” exhibition is on display in Glencairn’s North Porch, Great Hall, Upper Hall and Bird Room.
The 45-minute “Christmas in the Castle” guided tours focus on the way Christmas was celebrated at Glencairn during the Pitcairn couple’s 4o years in the house. Guided tours cost $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. The suggested donation for self-guided tours is $5.
Koziar’s Christmas Village is truly a holiday wonderland — a wintertime spectacle that delights young and old alike with a huge amount of holiday displays and special attractions. It will remain open every night through January 1 — including Christmas Eve, Christmas Night, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Night.
The tours of “Christmas Village” feature visits to a variety of displays and exhibits, including “Santa’s Post Office,” “Christmas in the Jungle,” “Manger Scene,” “Christmas Beneath the Sea,” “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “Olde Fashioned Bakery Shop,” “Toy Maker and his Toy Shop,” “Christmas in Other Lands” and “The Olde Church”.
Other attractions at Koziar’s Christmas Village include a huge model train display, a toy shop, a country kitchen, indoor and outdoor Christmas displays and a place to visit with Santa and even get pictures taken with the old guy in the red suit. Admission to Christmas Village is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors (65 and older) and $8 for children (ages 4-10).
Another “Totally Christmas” destination for families is the National Christmas Center (3427 Lincoln Highway, Paradise, 717-442-7950,http://www.nationalchristmascenter.com).
Nestled in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, National Christmas Center Family Attraction & Museum takes visitors on a journey through wonderful memories of Christmases past and present, near and far.
The attraction features 20,000 square feet of life-sized, walk-through, indoor exhibits that bring the holiday to life for all ages. It features 15 main galleries and numerous, ever-changing smaller exhibits.
Admission is $12.50 for adults and seniors and $5 for children.
Visitors to the Center can also buy combination tickets for the “Christmas Magic Lantern Show” at the Plain & Fancy Theater on Route 340 (www.magiclanterntheater.com).
Here, they can enjoy a Victorian Magic Lantern Show with live Showman and their favorite Christmas stories projected onto the big screen with an authentic 1890 magic lantern.
Attendees can step back in time and become part of a Victorian family’s traditional Christmas Eve celebration. The family is very excited as Grandpa tells fabulous Christmas stories with the help of the amazing Magic Lantern.
The Showman presents iconic stories and poems like “The Night Before Christmas,” with stunning visual images, heartfelt music and legendary storytelling. And the power of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future will come alive as he uses his spellbinding talents to weave the story of Scrooge’s miraculous transformation in Charles Dickens’ classic tale “A Christmas Carol”.
Tickets are $16.96 for adults and $11.95 for children.
The American Music Theatre (2425 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, 800-648-4102, www.AMTshows.com) has its holiday show running now through December 30.
The AMT’s 2017 show “Home for the Holidays” is an all-new presentation of favorite sacred and secular holiday songs performed by professional artists from across the country. The show will feature spectacular vocal harmonies, lively musical arrangements, impressive dancing and the music of the AMT Orchestra.
Also featured will be elaborate scenery, elegant costumes and a theater decked out with holiday decorations.
The show will have both matinee and evening performances each week with the addition of 10:30 a.m. performances on Saturdays throughout December. Show length is two hours and 15 minutes with a short intermission. Tickets are $42 for adults and $21 for children.
The Rainbow Comedy Playhouse (3065 Lincoln Highway East, Paradise, 800-292-4301, www.Rainbowcomedy.com) is presenting its holiday production “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas?” now through December 30.
Matinee performances are every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and selected Saturdays with an 11:30 a.m. lunch and a 1 p.m. curtain. Evening performances are every Friday, Saturday and selected Thursdays with dinner at 6 p.m.
A popular annual holiday event in the Lancaster area is Yuletide at Wheatland (President James Buchanan’s Wheatland, 1120 Marietta Avenue, Lancaster, 717-392-4633,http://www.lancasterhistory.org/events/yuletide-at-wheatland).
Wheatland and lancasterHistory.org are teaming up to present a festive way to celebrate a Lancaster Victorian Christmas.
Visitors are invited to join LancasterHistory.org for a historical performance that captures a moment in time and takes them back to the holiday of 1875.
It is the winter of 1875 and James Buchanan’s niece, Harriet Lane Johnston, and her family have decked the halls of Wheatland in high Victorian style. Join them for a one-of-a-kind Yuletide experience, complete with elegant decor and ample holiday cheer.
Performances run Fridays and Saturdays now through December 30 (daily from December 26-30) and are limited to 20 visitors each performance.
Tickets are $17 for adults, $8 for children (ages 6-13) and free for children (5 and under).
If you head to Berks County, you can check out “Christmas at FirstEnergy Stadium” (1900 Centre Avenue, Reading).
The home of the Reading Phillies has been transformed into a winter wonderland this holiday season – a big change from the summertime vibe of minor league baseball.
The event features a one-of-a-kind on-field multi-media LED light show, live Nativity scene, live reindeer, Santa’s House, “Frozen” Ice Cave and a variety of other family-friendly attractions.
Adventure Aquarium’s “Christmas Underwater,” which provides visitors with a different look at Christmas, is running now through December 30 at the Adventure Aquarium (1 Riverside Drive, Camden, New Jersey, www.adventureaquarium.com).
The attraction features the “World’s Tallest Underwater Christmas Tree.” At over 18 feet tall, the tallest underwater Christmas tree on Earth has arrived in Shark Realm. Scuba Santa has collected corals from all over the world’s oceans to decorate the tree along with colorful shells, thousands of twinkling lights, enchanting bubbles and a bit of magic.
“Christmas Underwater” offers a variety of activities geared for all ages including “Milk and Cookies with Santa,” “Dry-side” Holiday Photos with Santa Claus,” “Merry Elfish Storytime,” “Snow Shower Dance Party,” the “I Believe in Scuba Santa Live Show,” and “Scuba Santa Appearances.”
Admission to Adventure Aquarium is $29 for adults and $21 for children.
“Christmas Candylane,” which is the annual holiday event at Hersheypark (100 West Hersheypark Drive, Hershey, 800-HERSHEY, www.hersheypark.com), is running now through December 31. Tickets are $24 per person. Children age two and under are admitted free.
Visitors to Hershey can also experience the winter wonderland called “Hershey Sweet Lights, A Holiday Drive-Thru Spectacular.” The attraction is a two-mile drive through wooded trails featuring approximately 600 illuminated, animated displays.
Admission is $26.15 on Fridays and Saturdays and $19.15 the rest of the week.
“A Very Furry Christmas at Sesame Place” (100 Sesame Road, Langhorne, www.sesameplace.com) is a festive, family-friendly celebration with everyone’s favorite Sesame Street friends live and in-person at the amusement park in Langhorne.
The annual event, which runs through December 31, offers a wide array of family holiday activities.
Visitors to the park can sing along at three special Christmas shows and a spectacular music and light show at our giant 1-2-3 Christmas Tree, take a train ride tour through the Twiddlebugs’ Gingerbread Cookie Factory on the Sesame Place Furry Express, take part in the Neighborhood Street Party Christmas Parade, and have the opportunity tomeet Lightning, the adorable reindeer from the movie “Elmo Saves Christmas.”
As an added attraction this year, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is spending the holiday season at Sesame Place. The lovable reindeer along with his friends Clarice and Bumble, will be available for photos with guests.
Tickets for “A Very Furry Christmas” are $32.
Dutch Wonderland Family Amusement Park (2249 Route 30 East, Lancaster, 866-386-2389, www.dutchwonderland.com) is hosting its “Dutch Winter Wonderland” from Now through December 30 on Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays.
Visitors are invited to celebrate the magic of the season at Dutch Winter Wonderland with rides, entertainment, and the Royal Light Show, a spectacular display of thousands of twinkling lights dancing to music.
Tickets are $11.99 in advance and $13.99 at the gate. Children age two and under are admitted free.
Bethlehem, which is known as the “Christmas City,” presents Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem (PNC Plaza at SteelStacks, 645 East First Street, Bethlehem, 610-332-1300,http://www.christmascity.org) every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday now through December 18.
Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem showcases aisles of exquisite handmade works by the nation’s finest artisans. The market also features live performances of Christmas music and vendors with an amazing variety of tasty food items.